Sexual Violence/Assault at Cleveland State

Policies and Prevention Methods

By Claudia Ugbana

The Title IX investigative process at Cleveland State University is strictly administrative, according to the Director of the Office for Institutional Equity (OIE), Rachel Lutner. 

OIE is home to the Title IX  coordinators at the university, instilling policies against sexual discrimination and overseeing procedures for investigating complaints of sexual harassment and/or complaints of discrimination. 

In 1972, the federal government passed Title IX, which prohibits: “The discrimination of students based on sex and gender in educational programs, adopted by colleges and universities that receive federal financial assistance.”

Therefore, schools must report all Title IX cases filed to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) under the Department of Education (DoED). In addition to the enforcement of Title IX activities, OCR also examines potential policy discriminations of such colleges and universities. 

Lutner gave a detailed rundown of the Title IX policies and procedure processes with The Cauldron.

“For the past 15 to 20 years, Title IX has been very focused on the negative impact on academic success caused by gender discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence,” Lutner stated. “Title IX says we need to investigate gender discrimination when we see it and take action to stop it, prevent it before it even happens and then eliminate it and its effect.”

Lutner explained the office was particularly focused on ensuring students’ academic performance was not affected by sexual or gender discrimination. 

“We have to take any student being affected by that experience [sexual harassment] and put them in the same situation as another student who isn’t having that experience,” she stated that this was their main goal.

On an academic basis, the department works with other school officials in ensuring that students are given extended deadlines, excused absences or alternative assignments if needed, in order for them to be successful, notwithstanding any sexual assault experienced. 

“Title IX is training to prevent, investigating to prevent, it is remedial measures and eliminating the effects of discrimination, to put it broadly,” Lutner said.

In a more detailed review of Title IX policies at Cleveland State, the policy against discrimination, harassment, sexual violence and retaliation, effective as of Sept. 10, 2017, can be accessed through the university’s website.

In the policy, students are educated on a variety of things which include: what sexual harassment is and what it includes, what sexual violence is and what could be considered sexual violence and definitions of affirmative consent. 

Lutner also shared details on investigative procedures taken against sexual harassment and violence cases by first discussing how the office accesses their information.

“Because most of the employees here on campus are responsible, they are supposed to report any information about students being discriminated against or being sexually abused or harassed,” she explained. “From students potentially reporting these cases to any faculty or staff on campus, emails are then directed to OIE.”

OIE begins the investigative process by reaching out to the student via email. The email is very specific as to what the problem is and explains the who, what and how the office might be of support to that student. In this detailed email, Lutner explains the office would make sure the student will be provided with various examples of the types of assistance that could be provided. Once this email has been sent, the office then waits for a response from the student.

“I’ve sent a number of those emails this past week, and I’ve yet to hear back from the students,” Lutner said. She explained that the process heavily depends on whether students are willing to talk to the office about their case. OIE is, however, liable for filing a complaint with or without assistance from the victim involved in sexual harassment or discrimination. 

Lutner elaborated on procedures that could be followed depending on whether the student was assaulted by another Cleveland State student or a non-Cleveland State student.

“If the student is assaulted by a person who is not another student, ultimately, what we’re looking at is support for that student assaulted,” she said. “Potentially, if a non-student is coming on campus and committing sexual assault, there are a number of things we have done on occasion, but we are kind of limited when dealing with someone who is not our student.”

If the person who did commit sexual assault is a Cleveland State student, making sure to remain trauma orientated, Lutner said the office makes sure to inform the victim the office is dedicated to not only protecting the victim, but also the entire campus against sexual violence. She noted she has not yet had a student respond negatively to this policy; however, students may remove themselves from the investigative process altogether if they wish to do so.

The investigative procedure is an equally-based informative process. The office speaks to both parties involved — the victim and accused — and keeps both parties equally informed as the process moves along. Evidence is collected by interviewing potential witnesses and collecting any messages or recordings which may aid the investigation. 

After reviewing all information obtained, the office then wraps up their investigation by applying the federal legal standard of sexual harassment in education which determines whether a policy violation of Title IX has occurred. This policy violation could be severe and pervasive harassment or sexual contact without consent or when a student was unable to give consent. 

However, Lutner specified, “The office does not prosecute or press criminal charges against students.” Victims requiring these demands would have to look to the Cleveland State police department or the respective law enforcement. 

“The outcome of the OIE process is whether a student can continue to come to school here and under what conditions,” Lutner said.

OIE does not tackle policy implementation and investigative procedures on their own. The office works in conjunction with a variety of resources, including the Cleveland State police department.

According to Lutner, the sexual violence response team includes all the critical offices at the univeristy coming together when they learn of sexual violence occurences. 

“We all work together,” she said.

Crime Reporting 

CSUPD Reported Sex-Related_ Crimes Since 2012 (3)

The Cleveland State police department carries out separate procedures from OIE when investigating sexual violence cases. Chief of Police at Cleveland State, Anthony Traska, delved into what he described as a multilayered process.

“The investigation piece starts with determining whether it happened on or off-campus,” he said. “If it happens on campus — any of the Cleveland State owned buildings — our detectives will handle that investigation. If it happened off-campus, we will refer them to the [city of Cleveland] police department to investigate the report.”

Regardless of sexual violence occurring on or off-campus, Traska said the department convenes with the sexual violence response team here on campus to best determine how to care for the student reporting an incident of sexual violence. Cases of sexual violence occurring on campus are criminally investigated by the Cleveland State detective bureau.

“The basic police investigation consists of conducting a sexual assault kit, optionable to the victim and interviews with the victim and suspect if they are known,” he explained.

Although Cleveland State police and OIE have separate procedures, they do work hand-in-hand when exchanging information. As a mandatory stipulation by the DoED, Cleveland State police receive the numbers of sexual assault cases from OIE and report them to the DoED.  

Are The Resources Effective?

The Sexual Violence Prevention and Sexual Health Education committee is the lead committee on sexual violence prevention at Cleveland State.

According to their website, “Their goals are to empower peer educators to train their peers, take leadership in Sexual Violence Prevention Education efforts on campus, be articulate in presenting [Title IX] consent and reporting policies and to utilize skills to make referrals.”

Denise Keary, Health & Wellness Center Coordinator and Sexual Violence Prevention Co-Chair, stated all the department employees go through some kind of training, provided through Cleveland State. However, Keary said the Health and Wellness office undergoes other outside training programs in order to become facilitators for additional trainings they can provide to students and faculty.

“Our empowered bystander training was developed by the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center and Recovery Resources to teach three basic intervention skills, if students were ever to run accross challenging situations,” Keary explained. “We’ve trained 879 students for over three years.”

The center also undergoes trauma informed training, teaching students and faculty how to talk to a person disclosing their sexual assault in a trauma informed way, Keary said. 

A big training process the department and a number of peer educators on campus were involved with, according to Keary, was culture of consent. The training program, facilitated by the Ohio Department of Higher Education, looked at alcohol and the perpetration of sexual violence.

“Alcohol is very linked to sexual violence, suicide and mental health depression,” Keary stated.

Through that outside training program, the Health and Wellness Center is now able to offer students the same training on campus.

The office partners with on and off campus resources for student referrals. Keary names OIE, Cleveland Rape Crisis Center and Recovery Resources as their more common referral programs.

A specific training source for students is an online training module offered to all freshman students enrolled in ASC 101, a program developed by OIE and The Education Committee. However, it is not clear as to whether the online module is an effective resource to students, as this online module is not mandatory for students to complete. 

Through several training and awareness programs, one pressing question is whether these training methods have been effective in sexual violence prevention and useful to students.

Speaking specifically to the empowered bystander and peer education training programs, Keary said, “I send out surveys to anyone who has gone through these programs each semester. Predominantly, students are using skills we give them.

“They feel confident in using these skills and have all used them at least one time. I can safely say this based on students own reporting through these surveys.”Empowered Bystander and Certified Peer Education Training- Follow Up Surveys (1)