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Law Books

Forsaken Justice:
How Title IX Fear Fails Women, Universities, and Society

Approximately 1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men will be sexually assaulted during college, but 95% of those assaults go unreported to either campus or police authorities, according to recent estimates from the CDC and the ACLU. In 2011, the Obama administration adapted Title IX as a solution to the problem feminist legal scholar Jennifer Temkin calls sexual assault “justice gaps”—that is, the dramatic gaps between the number of offenses experienced, the number recorded by the police, and the number of related convictions.


Today, following the 50th anniversary of Title IX, campus sexual assault remains a site of political contest, with Title IX policies yo-yoing from one presidential administration to another. Since 2011, mishandlings of campus sexual assault cases by Title IX offices at universities have ignited firestorms of debate about whether the criminal justice system or the Title IX campus system is better suited to improving the ability of rape survivors to report and find adjudicatory solutions for their assaults. But what if that either/or jurisdictional tug-of-war causes more of the very violence it should be stopping? Forsaken Justice is the first to identify an overlooked reason why sexual violence underreporting persists on college campuses; because of fear, mistrust, and competition between local police and campus jurisdictions regarding who should handle campus sexual assault, the problem of sexual violence on college campuses is getting worse.


Interest in #MeToo, gendered violence, policing, Title IX, restorative justice, and other alternatives to criminal justice have reached a peak among college students, parents, those who work in higher education and law enforcement, and the general public. As the only scholar who has researched not just one campus, one case, or one jurisdiction, but rather, dozens of campus communities and the people in them working in criminal, civil, and campus legal jurisdictions alike, I have unique expertise in the realm of college sexual assault. My extensively researched book will help a variety of readers understand how a culture of fear around Title IX in campus towns across America and the police-campus competition it engenders limit the promise of Title IX: gender equity. I argue in this book that this pervasive Title IX culture of fear can lead campus administrators to gatekeep pathways to justice for sexual assault survivors, often leading to feelings by survivors that they missed their opportunity for justice due to manipulation by the institution they trusted most: their school.


Whereas previous books have focused on identifying and understanding Title IX problems on a particular campus or a specific case, or on issues only within Title IX offices, this book will be the first to give readers tools for understanding and taking action on the idea that the promise of Title IX and desires to address sexual violence will remain unfulfilled until all institutions in a community work together, cooperating and building trust so victims of violence can exercise full agency in deciding their own best path forward through healing and recovery, be it through the courts, campus processes, or other restorative options.


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In the second half of the book I share concrete policy recommendations and tips for how college communities, including actors outside campuses, can work together. For example, following the 50th anniversary year of Title IX, readers can consider initiating their own “Start By Believing” campaigns after reading about the decision by small towns and major cities across the U.S., such as Saint Paul, MN, to take part in the initiative, which changes how everyone across institutions and jurisdictions responds to survivors of sexual violence.


To explore the policy implementation of Title IX, I engaged mixed-methods. In addition to analyzing primary data related to federal, state, and campus policies and outcomes, I used in-depth interviews and participant observation with over 50 police, attorneys, campus Title IX administrators, and students in six college towns. 

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