Higher education programs, like universities, have to have rules to prevent sexual violence and to protect survivors.
A survivor can be anyone, of any gender, who has experienced:
- Sexual violence, such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, sexual abuse, or sexual coercion
- Domestic violence
- Dating violence
Regardless of where the sexual, domestic, dating, or stalking occurs, if a survivor is part of a higher education program, they can get help and protection. If the violence or stalking is by a fellow student, the survivor can ask the school to punish the student. The school will review the evidence and make a decision.
A survivor can also ask the school to make accommodations to keep them safe from a fellow student or a non-student.
Protections and accommodations for survivors
The school must have reasonable protective measures available for survivors. Schools are required to tell you what protections or accommodations are available. These can include:
- Changing your class schedule
- Moving you to a different dorm
- Granting you a campus no-contact order
- Enforcing a civil no-contact order
Reporting a violation
Schools are required to give students various options to report sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. These options include reporting that is:
Reports can also be made by a third party. Meaning, if you witness or learn of a violation, you can make a statement to the school. The report will still be anonymous and confidential.
If you report a violation, the school must prevent retaliation against you.
When making a report, it is essential to tell the whole story. Not giving all the information because you're scared of punishment might make an eventual investigation more difficult. Schools must grant reporters immunity for specific misdeeds they admit to when reporting a violation. For example, if you were drinking underage when a sexual assault happened or when you learned of the assault, you won't receive punishment for the underage drinking.
The school must respond to the reporter within 12 hours of receiving an electronic report.
The school is required to provide survivors with the name, telephone number, address and website URL of sexual assault crisis centers. The school is also required to provide confidential advisors. These advisors must be available to provide emergency and ongoing support to survivors.
Confidential advisors must give survivors certain information, including:
- The survivor's reporting options
- The possible outcomes of moving forward with the report
They must also give survivors information on the resources available to them, such as:
- Sexual assault crisis centers
- Medical treatment facilities
- Counseling services
- Legal resources
- Medical forensic services
- Mental health services
Confidential advisors must keep secret whatever a survivor shares with them. However, with the survivor's permission, the confidential advisor can help the survivor with communicating or reporting to:
- Campus officials
- Community-based sexual assault crisis centers
- Local law enforcement
They can also help survivors ask the school to put in protective measures or make accommodations.
Survivor rights and options
The school must give the survivor specific information once they are made aware that a violation took place and the survivor has been identified.
They have to tell survivors about their rights, including:
- The right not to report the violation to the school
- The right not to report the violation to law enforcement
- The survivor's right to privacy
- Which reporting methods are confidential
They have to provide the survivor with contact information for:
- The school's Title IX coordinator
- Confidential advisors
- A community-based sexual assault crisis center
- Campus law enforcement
- Local law enforcement
The survivor can ask the school for:
- Help in notifying local law enforcement
- Help in getting mental and physical health services, counseling, and advocacy services
- Reasonable accommodations
- Protective measures
After a report is made
If the survivor wants to move forward, schools are required to respond to a report by investigating the incident. They are required to:
- Interview the parties, including the survivor and the accused
- Locate any witnesses
- Contact and cooperate with law enforcement, if the survivor chooses to involve law enforcement
Complaint resolution procedures
After an initial investigation, the school will begin a procedure, such as a hearing, to determine if sanctions should be imposed against the accused student. This is only for sanctions by the school and only for accusations made against a fellow student. If the survivor has reported the violation to local law enforcement, there will be a separate investigation and process through the criminal court system.
In a criminal proceeding, a person accused of a crime is only punished if their guilt is "proven beyond a reasonable doubt." In a school complaint resolution proceeding, the standard is lower, and sanctions can be imposed using a "preponderance of the evidence," meaning that it’s more likely than not, that the violation occurred.
In a complaint resolution procedure, the complainant and the respondent aren't allowed to confront each other or directly ask the other questions. However, they both can suggest questions to the people overseeing the proceedings. Also, neither can be compelled to testify in front of the other but the other party must be able to hear that testimony. For example, a tape recording or a written transcript could be available to the other party.
Both parties are allowed to have an advisor accompany them to any meeting or hearing. An advisor must follow the rules of the proceedings, not cause undue delay, and must not harass or intimidate the other party or any witnesses. An advisor can include:
- Your confidential advisor
- A friend
- A family member
- An attorney
The complainant and respondent have certain rights during a resolution procedure, including the right to:
- Not have their identity disclosed except as necessary to resolve the complaint
- Present witnesses and evidence on their behalf
- Request that the proceedings begin promptly
- Know the identity of the person or people who will review the evidence
- Ask that the person or people reviewing the evidence be substituted because of a conflict of interest
After the resolution procedure
The school has seven days after deciding to inform the complainant and the respondent whether sanctions will be imposed and what those sanctions will be. The school must inform both the complainant and the respondent at the same time, in writing.
Both parties can appeal the decision if:
- A procedural error occurred
- There is new information that would substantially change the outcome of the findings
- The sanction is disproportionate to the findings
If an appeal is granted, the person or people reviewing the decision will not be the same people who made the initial decision. The school has seven days after they finish their review to inform the parties about their appeal decision.
Updated: March 2018