The Evolving Landscape of Title IX: Predicting Mandatory Reporters’ Responses to Sexual Assault Disclosures

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Abstract

Approximately 1 in 4 women is sexually assaulted in college, a problem that federal law has attempted to address with recent changes. Under the evolving landscape of Title IX, and related law, universities nationwide have overhauled their sexual assault policies, procedures, and resources. Many of the new policies designate undergraduate resident assistants (RAs) as Responsible Employees—requiring them to provide assistance and report to the university if a fellow student discloses sexual assault. We investigated factors that predict the likelihood of RAs enacting their policy mandate, that is, reporting sexual assault disclosures to university authorities and referring survivors to sexual assault resources. Based on data from 305 Responsible Employee RAs, we found that likelihood to report and refer varied, depending on RAs’ knowledge of reporting procedures and resources, trust in these supports, and perceptions of mandatory reporting policy. Understanding mandatory reporter behavior is crucial, because help-providers’ responses can have serious implications for the recovery of sexual assault survivors. Our findings elucidate some effects of changes in the interpretation and implementation of Title IX, with potential to inform the development of more theoretically and empirically informed policies.

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