Shining light in the dark

Title IX Office provides support to students, participates in national event

Brittney Wardlaw, the director of Liberty University’s Title IX Office – located in Green Hall 1830 – believes sexual sins and discrimination do occur, but that the Title IX Office is helping more people learn about these situations and the resources the university offers that can help prevent them.

“Title IX is an amendment that was passed in 1972 … that basically states that schools who receive federal funding are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of gender or sex,” Stephany Steger, the administrative assistant of the Title IX Office, said.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Do you get a lot of reports in your office?’” Wardlaw said.

DISPLAY — Yellow umbrellas were lined up to create an eye-catching display for RAINN Day. Photo credit: Caroline Sellers

DISPLAY — Yellow umbrellas were lined up to create an eye-catching display for RAINN Day. Photo credit: Caroline Sellers

“I would say the reports have grown. I think that where people are, that’s where sin will be and those things happen … but if people are more aware that they actually have support when they report this and they understand what’s going to happen when they report it, they feel more comfortable coming forward.”

Title IX offers a lot for students and faculty on campus, Steger said.

According to Wardlaw, the Title IX facilities are offered to everyone: students, faculty, both online and residential and visitors to campus as well.

According to Steger, Title IX offers educational opportunities and resources to victims of sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual harassment, stalking and gender-based bullying as they work cooperatively with the Office of Community Life (formerly known as the Office of Student Conduct).

“We have a responsibility to stop, prevent and remedy any instances of discrimination harassment or violence or assault,” Wardlaw said.

According to Wardlaw, Liberty’s Title IX Office has been around for almost two years while a coordinator has been around for at least five years.

The office holds a total of six employees, and up until about a year ago, Wardlaw was the sole member of the office. This past July marks a full year of a Title IX Office staff.

“I’m primarily responsible for making sure Liberty is compliant with Title IX and that we are stopping, preventing and remediating sexual assault, sexual violence and sexual harassment,” Wardlaw said.

Wardlaw said she travels around campus to different athletic teams and departments to give presentations.

The presentation for freshmen and transfer students has become more robust, and professors have asked her to come speak in classes.

Wardlaw said various interim measures are offered if a student is facing something at home or on campus, such as the no-contact agreement, which states that neither party may have contact with the other.

The Title IX Office also provides housing changes for people in bad situations, as well as academic assistance such as tutoring or working with a professor for a student who is dealing with something outside the classroom.

A RAINNy day on campus.

A big part of what Title IX does for the students is prevention education where they raise awareness through different awareness campaigns, according to Wardlaw.

On Thursday, Sept. 15, the Title IX Office hosted its first Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) Day event on the Vines Center lawn.

Yellow umbrellas were lined along the lawn in a display to attract students and to offer emotional healing.

Sept. 15 marked the day that college campuses across the nation hosted national RAINN Day events in hopes of raising awareness of sexual violence on college campuses.

Prior to this event, the Title IX Office collaborated with Liberty men and women who are a part of Residence Life in decorating yellow umbrellas with words of hope, love, Scripture, and abstract art decorated on them.

Resident Assistant (RA) Christiana Johnson, and other female resident directors and RAs, took part in raising awareness about sexual assault.

“I firmly believe in the power of raising awareness about things such as rape and assault,” Johnson said. “I think it’s cool that Title IX is active, especially at a Christian campus, so that students can talk about it.”

Program Manager Lindsey Scott of the Sexual Assault Response Program of Central Virginia (SARP), which the Title IX Office partners with, informed students of the lack of exclusivity in sexual violence in regard to religion, sex or gender.

“Unfortunately, sexual assault is not going to be exclusive with who it happens to,” Scott said. “Christian girls are just as easily susceptible to it as non-Christians.”

Candy, pens, LED flashlights for those walking alone at night, and informational pamphlets were all available for students at the RAINN Day event.

Title IX intern Lori Mercer, who works as the office’s events coordinator for their victim advocacy and awareness projects, appreciated how engaged the students were on the desire to educate themselves on sexual violence.

“Students are engaged and asking us what our display is about and admiring them and thanking the Title IX Office for doing this event,” Mercer said.

Mercer also took pride in educating those that were not aware of what Title IX is.

“Some students may have even gotten our name wrong,” Mercer said. “Either way, we are here today to educate them, and let them know what all Title IX does … day in and day out to assist them.”

RAMEY is a feature reporter.

Williams is an opinion writer.

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