Northeastern University’s Definition of Consent Allowed Assailant to Transfer
Two years later, student files Title IX & Clery Act complaint against school
Early this morning, Youngist received a report that a survivor of sexual assault has chosen to file a federal complaint against Northeastern University. The filing comes on the heels of a flood of Title IX complaints from students across the country, including a 23 student filling against Columbia University last month for its handling of campus sexual assault and the Department of Education’s recent decision to investigate 55 universities for possible federal violations.
In her press release, the survivor stressed her hope that this complaint, under both Title IX and the Clery Act, would push the issues which had affected their case to the forefront of national coverage, namely: the refusal of universities to properly understand consent, the leeway given for assailants to transfer to other schools, and the extremely short statute of limitations given to file a Title IX complaint (180 days).
Despite going through the harrowing hearing process, which initially found the assailant responsible, through procedural maneuvering and the university’s deliberately inadequate definition of consent, the assailant, another Northeastern student, was able to transfer.
“My assailant was then was awarded an appeal based on a ‘procedural error,’ and I was ‘granted’ another hearing. However, before this planned hearing occurred, he withdrew and successfully transferred to another university. I dropped out of Northeastern.”
Two years later, after connecting with other survivors and the larger national student pushback against campus assault, the survivor began to ask questions and found out the so-called “procedural error” that granted her rapist the appeal was that the definition of consent, verbal consent, used in the first hearing board, was “too high” of a standard for the appeal.
Thus, because Northeastern’s definition of “consent” refuses to recognize the importance of continuous and enthusiastic verbal affirmation as an unegotiable standard for consensual sexual encounters, the assailant was able to go to another school. In fact, Northeastern University’s defintion of consent leaves out any mention of verbal consent. How can students feel safe on their campuses, when such an integral component of consent is left up to the discretion of review boards? In this bureaucratic ambiguity, the so-called “gray areas” of sexual violence are quietly normalized.
The survivor also stressed the federal law’s lack of accommodation for the time and healing often necessary for survivors to even begin considering filing a complaint:
“Unfortunately, I am no longer within the 180 day statute of limitations for filing a Title IX complaint. While there is a slim possibility I am granted a waiver, I hope to shed some light on the issues with this time restraint. When I was able to talk about my experience and acknowledge how wrong this process was, I was years past this statute.”
Whether it be on a university or federal level, formal constraints from inadequate definitions to unreasonable time limits refuse to account for the needs of survivors and the ongoing realities of sexual violence. Such legalistic denials reflect a larger culture of silence - an eerie formal silence that pervades campus, where nothing is supposed to happen, ensconced from the scary outside world. Yet nationwide, survivors are breaking the silence and forcing us to reconsider the communities we are apart of and hopefully reclaim them in the process.
Though she was the only one to file at Northeastern, the survivor made clear she was not alone:
“I hope that I am able to add to the recent movement of survivors coming forward by shining the light on these three points so that Universities are held to an appropriately high standard when it come to protecting their students.”