Rape Victims' Privacy Threatened by New York Ruling
Colleges and Universities Can Avoid Disclosure by Simple Change in Policy
This ruling could deter victims of rape from seeking much needed counseling, and possibly even from reporting rapes to university personnel, but there's a simple way for colleges and universities to avoid a similar ruling in the future, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who has won more than one hundred legal actions fighting sex discrimination against women.
Here it appears that the university made a crucial mistake, says Banzhaf. It combined in one person the therapeutic role of counseling, with the separate and distinct rule of advising student rape complainants.
More specifically, it is alleged here that the female complainant was induced to file a Title IX complaint of rape, after two apparently consensual encounters with the same male student, after first withdrawing a rape complaint with the police, and then being advised by the therapist.
As a result the New York magistrate ruled that the "interests of justice substantially outweigh the need for confidentiality,"
Title IX professionals are shocked. One said that it "is definitely a cause for alarm," while another predicted that "when someone in the psychotherapist community gets wind of this, they'll go off."
Several predicted that it will deter students who have been raped from seeking the counseling and therapy which they are likely to need.
But, suggests Banzhaf, it appears that there is a simple way of avoiding this disclosure, and whatever problems it might cause. Universities should examine their own existing procedures and make any changes necessary to avoid this apparent conflict of interest.
Therapists should provide whatever therapy is necessary, but a separate person - and perhaps even a separate person in a different university department - should explain to complainants what their options are, and the advantages, risks, and problems of each.
In this way, universities can help insure that students are not pressured into filing rape complaints which aren't warranted - the male student's attorney claimed the therapist "recruited" the female student to file the complaint which led to his expulsion - while at the same time helping to insure that students who need counseling are not deterred by concerns of confidentiality, suggests Banzhaf.