Colleges Seek to Identify Women Citing Sex Abuse

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Three women are known in court documents as “Jane Doe 2,” “Jane Doe 3” and “S.B.”  All three say they suffered sexual violence and that their colleges should have protected them. They feel betrayed. The women want to maintain privacy while asking for monetary damages and better accountability for how the campuses address sexual misconduct. The schools facing these federal Title IX lawsuits – Dartmouth College and Florida A&M University – deny that they responded inadequately, and have asked courts not to allow the women to use pseudonyms. They know the women’s identities but say that having to keep them confidential would hamper their defense, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Such cases raise the question of whether people can seek both justice and privacy under Title IX – or whether they may in some instances have to choose. The debate hinges on how to balance fairness and compassion in the legal system and in educational settings.

The colleges’ legal tactics are gaining national attention because “it certainly has been more common to let cases proceed on pseudonyms,” says law Prof. Peter Lake of Florida’s Stetson University College of Law. “This has been a persistent question that’s been coming up in Title IX work – preserving some level of privacy or confidentiality … the fear being that if you don’t, it may chill people from going forward.” Among 500 people who have signed a petition calling for Dartmouth to withdraw its opposition to the women’s privacy are Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a Dartmouth alum, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). U.S. District Judge Mark Walker denied motions by Florida A&M University to reveal S.B., alleges rapes and retaliation for reporting. “There is absolutely no legitimate public interest in outing a rape victim in a Title IX case,” he said.

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