Panel Paper: Campus-Based Sexual Assault Victim Advocates: Gendered Dimensions of a Complex Role

Saturday, November 4, 2017
Stetson F (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Sarah Jane Brubaker, Virginia Commonwealth University

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR) now famous Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) reinvigorated the application of Title IX to campus sexual assault and dramatically changed the way most campuses were handling these incidents. This qualitative study begins its inquiry from the standpoint of campus-based sexual assault advocates, a group that the author argues has been marginalized through these developments, and examines how changes to campus sexual assault policies and practices illuminate and exacerbate gendered dimensions of the advocate role. Much of the advocacy work in domestic and sexual violence began as part of grassroots feminist anti-violence social movement activism. Steeped in this ideology, advocacy focuses on and prioritizes women’s experiences of violence and their authority to name their experience as well as control decisions regarding response. Highly engaged in undervalued emotion-laden carework, advocates working on college campuses confront the reality of a masculine-defined bureaucratic organization whose culture based on instrumental rationality often comes into conflict with thae goals and practices of feminist-informed advocacy. The Title IX framing of and response to campus sexual assault further applies masculine ideals to the process that exacerbate these conflicts and constrain the work of advocates, limiting their ability to serve victims. The findings of the study contribute to a vast literature on campus sexual assault that has largely ignored its impact on organizational roles and processes. The paper is situated in the history of the feminist anti-violence movement and its ongoing tensions with formal systems, as well as literature on gendered organizations and occupations, in order to demonstrate the gendered effects of Title IX's framing of campus sexual assault.