Abstract: "It Probably Hurt More Than It Helped": LGBQ Survivors of Sexual Assault and Their Experience with the College Title IX Reporting Process (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

"It Probably Hurt More Than It Helped": LGBQ Survivors of Sexual Assault and Their Experience with the College Title IX Reporting Process

Friday, January 14, 2022
Liberty Ballroom K, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Sarah Nightingale, PhD, Assistant Professor, Eastern Connecticut State University
Background: Sexual assault on college campuses is a persistent problem that impacts the well-being and academic success of students. Research has found that sexual minority students disproportionately experience sexual assault in college. Title IX requires that colleges have a process in place to respond to reports of sexual assault and provide support services to affected students, however, little is known about the experience of LGBQ students who do report through the Title IX process. This study seeks to fill this gap through a focus on two research questions: 1. How do LGBQ college student survivors of sexual assault perceive the sexual assault reporting climate and, 2. How do LGBQ college student survivors who did report the incident to college administrators perceive their experience with the reporting process?

Method: Participants were recruited for this cross-sectional study through an anonymous, on-line survey distributed through social media. On-line recruitment was used to enhance anonymity and accessibility for participants This sample included 409 current college students in the United States who identified as a sexual minority and had experienced sexual assault since they started attending their current college. The majority of the sample were white (86.6%, n = 354), identified as either female (51.3%, n = 210) or male (17.6%, n = 72) and over half were between the ages of 18 and 20 (53.8%, n = 220). Approximately 10% (n = 41) of survivors in the sample had reported the incident to college officials.

Results: Independent-sample t-tests were conducted to compare perceptions of how campus officials respond to sexual assault between survivors who made a formal report to campus officials and those who did not. There was a significant difference in the perceptions of those who made a formal report (M = 27.4, S.D = 7.78) and those who did not (M = 31.09, S.D = 6.91; t (226) =2.99, p = .003, two-tailed). The magnitude of the difference in the means (mean difference = 3.69, 95% CI: 1.26 to 6.12) was medium (Cohen’s D = .5), indicating that survivors who had reported to campus officials had a significantly more negative perception of campus response. Next, open ended questions of students who did report were coded and analyzed for themes. Major themes identified were feeling less safe on campus after reporting, a lack of accountability in Title IX adjudication outcomes, and lack of communication and timeliness during Title IX investigations.

Implications: Results of this study indicate that the experience of reporting sexual assault to Title IX officials may be negative for some LGBQ survivors. College officials should consider this when assessing mandatory reporting policies, training Title IX investigators, and reviewing procedures related to adjudication outcomes. Social work practitioners invested in improving response efforts on campus should advocate for transparency in adjudication procedures and increased education for college officials who work with LGBQ survivors.