New Title IX coordinator aims to empower students

Infographic by Jess Schurz | Lariat Photographer
Infographic by Jess Schurz | Lariat Photographer
Infographic by Jess Schurz | Lariat Photographer

By Amanda Hayes

Baylor has hired its first Title IX coordinator, who said she is here to help sexual assault survivors and assist with policy changes for sexual assault charges in compliance with Title IX regulations.

Patty Crawford, Baylor’s Title IX coordinator, said she wants students, both survivors and alleged perpetrators, to know that she is available to talk and counsel with them.

“It’s hard to be successful when you don’t feel safe,” Crawford said. “When you don’t feel safe, it is difficult to enjoy your life and grow.”

Additionally, all new students must be trained in bystander intervention for sexual assault as part of the Bear Up Now campaign. Crawford said when students are educated on the topic, this can change campus culture.

“Studies show that if perpetrators are aware that their peers are being trained in the prevention methods of bystander intervention, then they are less likely to perpetrate in those peer environments,” Crawford said. “This is a prevention tool that empowers women and men to shift a national culture of sexual violence.”

Title IX, a law passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, requires gender equity in every educational program that receives federal funding. This law is often associated with athletics, but it applies to several areas where sexual discrimination could be practiced.

In April 2011, a letter was issued by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights known as the “Dear Colleague” letter. This confirmed that schools have an obligation under Title IX to prevent and address sexual violence, as it interferes with students’ opportunity to receive an education. The new office of Title IX coordinator was created because gender discrimination is a complex issue, Crawford said.

As Title IX coordinator, Crawford will listen to students’ stories and keeps them private. She is also available to help students in deciding which steps to take next, and provide the necessary resources. She said she can help victims change their class schedules or move to a different residence hall if they wish. Crawford also works with faculty and trains residence hall directors.

Victims of sexual violence often don’t report the act because they don’t want to talk about it, Crawford said, and she wants students to know they don’t have to.

“I don’t mind meeting with a student five or even six times before they may be ready to share their story,” Crawford said. “Students have options regarding action, but it is usually based on the student’s desires if judicial action takes place.”

Dr. Cheryl Wooten, psychologist and coordinator of Sexual Assault Prevention, serves as the chairperson of a team of faculty and staff who volunteer their time to use their areas of expertise in the prevention of interpersonal violence within the community.

“The new Title IX position provides students the opportunity to receive direct assistance regarding some of the challenges they face in the university environment after an experience of interpersonal violence,” Wooten said. “I want students to know that something very good is coming.”

Crawford said eighty percent of sexual violence cases happen with acquaintances or someone the victim knows, usually with alcohol involved.

Crawford understands that sharing stories about a situation involving sexual violence is difficult. If students have to repeatedly tell their story, this re-victimizes them. In order to avoid this trauma, Crawford said she makes sure that they only have to tell their story once by creating a calm environment so they do not feel cross-examined.

“There is no timeline, it can be three years later when the alleged survivor feels like they need to tell someone,” Crawford said. “Whenever the student is ready, I am ready to listen.”

For those who are interested in getting involved, Crawford is forming a student advisory group to let students chime in on this topic. She wants students to meet regularly and give input on how the marketing of this issue comes across to college students. Crawford wants students to know they can contact her.