Year of Publication

2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Dr. Claire Renzetti

Abstract

Help seeking after an experience of campus sexual assault is an important link for many survivors towards processing and healing. College campuses have a plethora of resources available, from free counseling, health clinics, advocates, and reporting options all right on their doorstep. Yet many students do not seek help from these offices. This study sought to find out why by looking beyond the victim, and examining the relationship between Title IX policy, professionals who provide resources, and victims. Through both policy analysis and in-depth interviews with both professionals and victims, this study found that Title IX policy codify the social scripts under the shadow of the law, thus entrenching punishment and investigation as the end goal of a Title IX process. Students, impacted by rape myths and sexual scripts, internalized victim-blaming attitudes that are not only barriers on their own, but also combine with social dynamics and stereotypes about crime to restrict student’s help-seeking behaviors. Professionals exist between the students and policy, and can function to either enhance the mandates of Title IX policy and their individual office logics, or they can mitigate harmful effects and increase student satisfaction with services. The professionals who worked to mitigate harmful logics adopted a victim-centered or trauma-informed approach to their work. This finding highlights not only the key role professionals and the mesosystem play in increasing positive help-seeking outcomes, but also points to factors that could help shift policy in a similar direction.

Both Title IX policy as it was written during this study and the new rule under the Trump administration maintain a distorted reflection of the criminal justice system that reduces survivor’s likelihood of seeking help and harms many survivors who do engage in help-seeking behaviors. A reimagined process needs to incorporate the factors that impact students most and work from a trauma-informed approach. This may not be possible through Title IX, but could exist alongside it.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2020.392

Funding Information

Larry J. Siegel Graduate Fellowship for the Study of Gender and Crime, American Society of Criminology Division on Women and Crime, $5,000, 5/2019-5/2020

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