Reforming Title IX: 

Evidence of the Harm of Universal Mandated Reporting for Marginalized Survivors of Campus Sexual Violence

Jennifer M. Gómez, Ph.D.


I gave this 3-minute talk at the Title IX Live Hearings for the Department of Education on 7 June 2021


My name is Jennifer M. Gómez, and I am a {assistant} professor and sexual violence researcher. I will be speaking about the research relevant to the unintended harm of universal mandated reporting. As well as an alternative of mandated support. 


Rape, including that which occurs on college campuses, is harmful for many reasons. One of those reasons is that it takes away the agency/autonomy of the victim. The victim didn’t want to have sex but was forced to. That’s harmful. 


University policies, including Title IX, should be the opposite of rape: whereas rape overrides what a victim wants, university policies should respect the victim’s choice. 


So, instead of universal mandated reporting that--like rape--takes the autonomy away from the victim: mandated support provides the victim with choices. 


This matters. 



Universal mandated reporting does more harm: decades of research tells us that taking away choice from victims after they’ve been sexually assaulted negatively impacts their mental health. In other words, universal mandated reporting makes things worse. 



Forced disclosure can have a chilling effect: decades of research shows that when victims get to choose when and who they disclose to, they are more likely to disclose AND more likely to engage in formal reporting processes AND more likely to utilize resources. Since we know that disclosure is a first step in both getting help AND identifying perpetrators and holding them accountable— the chilling effect of universal mandated reporting, again, makes things worse. 



This chilling effect might be greater for some: minorities, incl people of Color, LGBT folks, and people w/disabilities are at increased risk for campus sexual violence. Since they also experience discrimination on college campuses, minority victims may not trust the universities’ ability to properly address their sexual assault. Therefore, the chilling effect of universal mandated reporting again makes things worse—but this time, it’s especially bad for those who are already marginalized.  


Mandated Support is a great alternative. 


Mandated support is that all victims—including undergrads, graduate students, law students, medical students, staff, administrators, and professors—all victims should know about and have access to university resources. Instead of universal mandated reporting, Title IX could require that when a victim discloses to me, a professor, I don’t behave like a rapist and take their reporting choice away from them by sharing what happened to the Title IX Director w/o their consent. Instead, Title IX could require me to engage in mandated support: providing them information for all the campus resources, including but not limited to the Title IX Office, so the victims can seek out the campus professionals whenever they are ready.  


Therefore, changes to Title IX can mean institutional courage that leads not only to improved victims’ mental health but also safer, more equitable university campuses for everybody. 


In closing, universities should have nothing in common with rapists. 


Limiting who is a responsible employee can turn that truth into a reality. 


Thank you. 




About the Author: 

Jennifer M. Gómez, Ph.D., is an incoming 2021-22 Fellow at the Stanford University Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS). With a contract with APA Books, she will spend the Fellowship year writing her academic book on cultural betrayal, sexual violence, and healing for Black women and girls (from Black Lives Matter to Me Too). 



Gómez, J. M. (2021, June). Reforming Title IX: Evidence of the harm of universal mandated reporting for marginalized survivors of campus sexual violence. Talk at the U.S. Department of Education Title IX Live Hearings, Washington, D.C. (online). 

For further readingcheck out: Freyd's Compelled Disclosure- Compilation of Articles & Resources and the Academic Alliance for Survivor Choice in Reporting Policies (ASC)

To learn more about institutional courage, check out: Freyd's Center for Institutional Courage

To take action: Circulate and sign ASC's Open Letter to Miguel Cardona, Ed.D. (Secretary of Education) and Suzanne B. Goldberg, J.D. (Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights).