How Are Georgia Colleges Responding to Sexual Assault Claims?

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Rolling Stone magazine has retracted parts of a recent story on sexual assault at the University of Virginia. The victim’s credibility has been called into question. But, the issue is an important one for Georgia colleges.

Two women have sued Georgia Tech’s Phi Kappa Tau fraternity for shrugging off rape allegations. Their attorney, BJ Bernstein, says the organization encouraged its members to sexually assault women.

“It was written in their meeting minutes, it would be discussed and noted in the meetings about wanting to have parties in order to get ‘rape bait,’” she says.

The women say they were raped by the same fraternity member. Bernstein says the fraternity didn’t take the issue seriously.

“Their reaction was just to minimize the facts, not let all the facts get out,” she says. “As opposed to really saying, ‘Hmmm, maybe we need to consider the protection of people who come in contact with our membership and this isn’t what we should have.”

Georgia Tech is not named in the lawsuit. The university expelled the accused offender and shut down the fraternity’s chapter. The school also updated its reporting policy.

Neena Chaudry, senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, says the federal Title IX law requires schools to act quickly.

“Once they know of something that is happening, or have reason to know that something is happening, that there’s any sort of sexual violence, assault harassment, if they don’t take steps immediately to address that, then they are violating the law,” Chaudry says.  

The U.S. Education Department is investigating 65 schools, including Emory University, to see if they comply with Title 9. In a statement, Emory said it “continues to cooperate fully” with the review.

The University System of Georgia will issue a preliminary report on how colleges handle reports of sexual assault in a few weeks.

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