LGBTQIA Dating Violence and Sexual Assault: What are my Options at a Religious University with Title IX Exemptions?

LGBTQIA Dating Violence and Sexual Assault: What are my Options at a Religious University with Title IX Exemptions?

LGBTQIA Dating Violence and Sexual Assault: What are my options at a religious university with Title IX exemptions?

By Eleanor, loveisrespect Advocate

You may be aware that Title IX is a law that protects students in federally-funded schools from sex discrimination. However, some religiously-affiliated* colleges and universities have Title IX exemptions, meaning they do not have to comply fully with the law. This can create barriers to safety for students who experience dating abuse or assault, especially those who identify as LGBTQIA.

Reaching out for support at a Title IX religious-exempt university can be difficult if you identify as LGBTQIA. Reporting abuse or assault may lead to unwanted attention from classmates, a campus honor code violation and/or investigation, disciplinary action, or even expulsion. Unfortunately, it’s likely that your abusive partner knows this, and may use this as a way to maintain power and control over you.

It’s important to know that you do not have to suffer in silence. There are resources available to assist and support you.

Identify inclusive services and support options

Telling someone that you are experiencing dating violence, stalking, or have been sexually assaulted is not easy, especially if you are in an environment that is not accepting of your identity. If you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed about taking the first step, it may be helpful to start small by reaching out to an anonymous crisis hotline or local LGBT center. Abuse tends to thrive in isolation, so it’s important that you try to connect with someone who can help keep you safe, make you feel secure, and does not judge what is happening or has happened to you.

Create a safety plan to stay safe on campus (or off)

A safety plan is a personalized, practical plan that can help you avoid dangerous or uncomfortable situations and/or help you know how to react if you’re in danger. Safety planning involves how to cope with stress, how to reach out for help safely, take legal action, and more.

If you have immediate medical concerns about your physical well-being and seeing a campus doctor is not an option, you can reach out to RAINN, Planned Parenthood, Gay Men’s Health Crisis for LGBTQ health clinics and local resources that offer free and/or affordable health services.

The National Center for Victims of Crime’s Stalking Resource Center has a safety plan on stalking. In addition, FORGE has a safety plan for transgender and gender nonconforming individuals who are experiencing intimate partner violence.

Start a log to document the abuse

Begin writing about what you’re going through by keeping a stalking and/or abuse log. Include any occurrences of abuse or stalking, the date and time of each incident, statements you, your partner, and/or any witnesses made about what happened, along with photos, screenshots of texts/messages, and any other digital evidence. Be sure to keep this in a safe place where the risk of your abuser or others finding it is very minimal. An encrypted online journal may be a good option if your internet usage is not monitored by your partner or your school.

Reporting to local law enforcement

If contacting local law enforcement is an important part of your safety plan, it may be helpful to read up on how to prepare for talking with police, communicating with law enforcement, and what to expect from the criminal justice system.

It’s also helpful to know what you can do if your campus police are unable to help

Regardless of how your school responds, you have legal options to obtain protection — including filing for a restraining or protective order. Although laws vary from state to state, and some specifically restrict restraining orders to heterosexual couples, most states have gender-neutral laws that do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Learn about your state’s LGBTQIA laws.

Additionally, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for enforcing civil rights laws on college campuses regardless of your school’s religious affiliation, including Title IX exempt institutions. If you are the victim of dating violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking and your school refuses to assist you or retaliates against you based on your sexual orientation/gender identity/presentation, you can file a complaint online at the Office for Civil Rights’ website. You do not need a lawyer to file a complaint with the agency. Additional guidance can be found at the Department of Education’s website.

Remember, abuse and assault are never the victim’s fault. No matter how you identify, you deserve to have support and resources that can help you in your situation. You can always call, chat or text with a loveisrespect advocate for support and more information!

*If you are currently attending a religious college or university, but not sure if they have a religious exemption the Department of Education has an archive of institutions that have petitioned and have been granted Title IX religious exemptions that allow them to discriminate on the basis sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Additional Resources:

LGBTQIA Religious Resources

Hotlines, Emergency Support, and Legal Support

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