Local victim advocate appointed to statewide advisory committee | SteamboatToday.com

Local victim advocate appointed to statewide advisory committee

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As colleges and state and federal legislators debate proposed rule changes to Title IX, local victim advocate Julia Luciano has been appointed to serve on Colorado’s Sexual Misconduct Advisory Committee.

A civil right law enacted in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in educational settings. It also covers sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Not only is it a positive thing for the entire community to have Luciano’s representation at the state level, said Lisel Petis, executive director of Advocates of Routt County, but Luciano will be the only member who works directly as a victim advocate.

Luciano, 28, was born and raised in South Routt. After earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Colorado State University, she began working in victim advocacy and educating young people about sexual violence. About three years ago, Luciano returned to Steamboat Springs and began mentoring youth with Partners in Routt County. She also volunteered for Advocates of Routt County on their hotline. Last November, she took a job with Advocates as a victim advocate.

Along with 10 other representatives from across the state, Luciano and the committee “will advise higher education leaders and policymakers on forthcoming federal rule changes to Title IX,” according to the Colorado Department of Higher Education. The group will also publish a report of their recommendations and prevention strategies on campuses by January 2021.

Title IX affects schools across the state, Petis said, but not all voices are always heard at the policy-making level.

She identified an existing need for states to give better and more consistent guidelines for schools and for the federal government to provide better guidelines to states.  

Through her service on the committee, Luciano can bring not only a rural voice to the table, but “can do a lot of work to make sure policies are victim centered,” Petis said.

The other members of the committee include college administrators, lawyers for both victims and the accused, a nurse and directors of several advocacy groups.

Luciano said she is excited about what she can learn from the other members with diverse backgrounds and extensive experience and then bring that knowledge back to Routt County.

Working with victims of sexual and domestic violence can without doubt be difficult, Luciano said, but it’s the good outcomes that make it all worth it.

“Seeing people starting at the very bottom — the worst experience of their lives – and walk through the process with them to seeing them OK and thriving and happy — that’s the part that is really rewarding,” Luciano said.

Luciano is also driven to better educate people about the resources available and help connect them to those resources, especially in rural communities. Routt County is lucky to have a ton of resources and support systems, but they aren’t always visible, she explained.

While Luciano’s career thus far has been focused more on middle school- and high school-aged students, she is quickly learning more about Title IX, the current political debate and the challenges specific to higher education.

In November 2018, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed Title IX rule changes that would alter the definition of sexual harassment, limit school’s jurisdiction regarding off-campus incidents, increase reporting requirements, allow colleges to raise the burden of proof and guarantee students the right to indirectly cross-examine each other.

The changes would rescind a number of Obama Administration guidelines.

According to DeVos, the changes, described as “bolstering the rights of the accused,” are intended to provide “clarity for schools, support for survivors and due process rights for all.”

The U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill on Dec. 7, 2019, to block DeVos’ changes, which are currently under review as states wait for guidance.

“The Colorado Department of Higher Education is committed to fostering safe learning environments free of gender-based discrimination, violence and harassment,” said Dr. Angie Paccione, executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

“Our appointees bring a wealth of experience and expertise to this committee, and we look forward to establishing consistent, research-based practices that we can implement statewide,” Paccione said of the new advisory committee.

Luciano said she believes her participation on the committee will give her a stronger ability to advance Advocate’s mission and benefit the entire Yampa Valley, as well as help advise and bring resources to all schools in the community.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

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