Dating violence, stalking could be considered gender discrimination on college campuses

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) Domestic violence cases on college campuses may soon fall under a different category. Potential changes could come from the U.S. Department of Education in the form of Title IX rules.

The changes would require all universities to change domestic violence, dating violence and stalking to gender discrimination cases.

Brandi Bartel sees all different kinds of people come through the doors at Springfield's Victim Center, including plenty of college students.

"It can be life changing and often times, those students are worried they might have to drop out or change schools," Bartel said.

It's an unfortunate reality. One Missouri State University isn't immune to. The school reported 8 cases of dating violence and 9 rapes in 2018... both increases over the previous year.

Click HERE for MSU's annual crime and safety report.

For Drury University's report, click HERE.

For Evangel University's report, click HERE.

"There is not more at Missouri State than there is in the general community," said Jill Patterson, MSU's Title IX Coordinator. "There's just a lot of dating and domestic violence and sexual assault that goes on."

Right now, the U.S. Department of Education records domestic assault, dating violence and stalking as issues of sexual harassment, but the department is proposing they become issues of gender discrimination.

That would require Jill Patterson's Title IX office to monitor in the same way they do sexual assaults.

"We specifically, have been very focused on providing due process and fairness to both parties that are involved in a situation," Patterson said.

According to Bartel, statistically, more people ages 18-24 are victims of domestic and sexual violence crimes than any other age group.

"So you put that into a setting, an environment where college students then live, work, potentially go to school, all their extracurricular activities, everything in their life is contained in a singular location, in a campus setting," she said.

Bartel said college students sometimes struggle to navigate campus life while dealing with trauma.

Patterson said that keeps some of them from going to class.

"Well, that’s the ultimate failure of a Title IX situation, if we can’t craft resources, support and measures to keep the parties separate, that they can both continue to attend schools here," she said.

Patterson said adjustments can be made for both parties involved in a sexual or domestic violence situation when it comes to class schedules, residence halls.

She said handling assault on a college campus is different than how it's handled in a court of law, as offices like hers are focused on access to education as well as students' safety.

"The ways we engage with people are different. The way we try to keep everybody focused on their academic success is critical," she said.

The rule changes from the U.S. Department of Education are in draft form. A final version could come out in the next few weeks.

Bartel said the shift could give more weight to the trauma victims face, and potentially give more students the courage to come forward.

"Anything an institution can do to help to give that assurance and peace of mind of the investigation process happening in a fair and trauma-informed way will go a long way," she said.

Patterson said it's not clear yet how the new rules could affect her office. There is no set date for when the proposed changes will be published.

For more on the department's recommendations, click HERE.

For more about the Victim Center, click HERE.