Golden Gate University Law Review


This Comment argues that campuses should, in the course of their Title IX proceedings, ensure that anyone who takes a potentially admissible statement from a survivor has received trauma-informed interview training. Trauma-informed interviewing acknowledges the physiological effect of trauma on survivors, the impact that it can have on their ability to recall facts and details, and the limits and possibilities of obtaining information from such witnesses. In addition, campuses should limit the number of individuals who take statements from survivors and record the victim’s statements. These improvements will create statements of higher evidentiary quality. It will also mitigate the emotional harm to survivors, helping to ensure their continued cooperation with prosecutors and law enforcement. To understand the process of investigating Title IX complaints and how the procedures that started on campus can impact a future criminal investigation, experts on both sides of the “ivory tower” were interviewed, including law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and an expert in Title IX jurisprudence.

Part I describes the research methodology utilized, the process of finding and interviewing the research subjects selected, and the research subjects’ credentials. Part II reviewsTitle IX disciplinary proceedings and applicable laws. Part III explains a typical interview process, and how it does not account for the trauma inherent in sexual assault or the unique context in which a campus sexual assault occurs. This creates admissible statements of dubious value and quality, which can be used to impeach a victim in a future criminal case. Part IV outlines a new way forward, which allows survivors to participate in the campus disciplinary process while mitigating the harm to both to themselves and to a future criminal prosecution. Here, advances in trauma-informed interviewing, the need to mandate such training for all personnel who conduct a Title IX proceeding on campus, and the necessity of accurately documenting the survivor’s statement, are explored. In addition, recent federal actions that support trauma-informed interview practices as a necessary component of Title IX compliance are described.