Q & A

The questions and answers below are intended to help community members navigate some of the more common questions that have arisen around the laws and policies governing sexual assault and harassment. If your question is not addressed here, please feel free to contact Kaaren Williamsen, Title IX coordinator. This is an evolving list of questions, and the College will continue to add additional guidance to meet the needs of the community.

What should you do if you have been sexually assaulted?

  1. Get to a safe place.
  2. Reach out for support - talk to someone you trust.
  3. Seek medical attention
  4. Consider having evidence collected.
  5. Understand your options for reporting the assault to Swarthmore College’s Public Safety or the police. 
  6. Ask for assistance or help from campus resources at Swarthmore College.
  7. Be kind to yourself. The aftermath of a sexual assault can be overwhelming. Take the time to take care of yourself.

If you are the victim/survivor of sexual assault, you are encouraged to seek assistance from a medical provider and/or law enforcement as soon as possible. This is the best option to provide physical safety, emotional support, and medical care. It is also the best option to ensure preservation of evidence and to begin a timely investigative and remedial response. The College will escort any Swarthmore community member to a safe place, provide transportation to the hospital, assist in coordination with law enforcement, and provide information about the College's resources and complaint processes.

You can make a report to Public Safety or with Title IX Coordinator Kaaren Williamsen (x3720). In addition to making a report with the College judicial process, you always have the option to pursue civil or criminal action with law enforcement, the courts, or with the Office for Civil Rights.

Assistance is available from the College and local law enforcement 24 hours a day, year-round, by calling the Department of Public Safety and/or the Swarthmore Borough Police Department. Anyone can request that a member of the Department of Public Safety and/or Swarthmore Borough Police respond and take a report.

What is the purpose of the medical exam? What does it mean to preserve evidence?

The medical exam obtained from a hospital or sexual assault response center has two goals: first, to diagnose and treat the full extent of any injury or physical effect (sexually transmitted infection or possibility of pregnancy) and, second, to properly collect and preserve evidence. The exam may include testing and prophylactic treatment for HIV/AIDS, STIs, and pregnancy, a vaginal and/or anal examination, collecting fingernail scrapings and/or clippings, examining for injuries, and a blood draw. There is a limited window of time (typically 72 to 96 hours) following an incident of sexual assault to preserve physical and other forms of evidence. Taking the step to gather evidence immediately does not commit an individual to any course of action. An individual can choose to preserve evidence and also choose not to ever pursue College judicial or criminal law enforcement action. The decision to seek medical attention and gather any evidence will preserve the full range of options to seek resolution through the College's complaint processes or criminal action.

What can a victim/survivor expect at Worth Health Center?

Worth is available nearly  24 hours a day (during the academic year) to assist students. (On Tuesdays between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., students should contact Public Safety to speak with the nurse on-call.) The survivor will be interviewed and evaluated by a nurse who will assess the survivor's injuries. If the survivor does not have injuries requiring emergency attention, the survivor still has the option-and is encouraged-to go to the hospital for care. If the survivor chooses to forego the hospital, they have the option of seeing a nurse practitioner at the Health Center as soon as possible. The primary purpose of the medical evaluation is to check for physical injuries and reduce risk of pregnancy, as appropriate, or complications from sexually transmitted diseases as a result of the assault. The survivor will be encouraged to have evidence collected. If the survivor chooses to have evidence 
collected, the survivor will be escorted to the nearest hospital by Public Safety, or a taxi (voucher provided), to the medical provider of the survivor's choice. The survivor can later return to Worth Health Center for follow-up medical care. While at the Worth Health Center, the survivor may request to speak with a confidential counselor through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

Worth Health Center will also offer to contact the Delaware County Women Against Rape (WAR) hotline so that the survivor can speak with a confidential crisis counselor if they desire. Worth Health Center will provide non-identifying information about an incident to the College for the purposes of compliance with the Clery Act.

What can a victim/survivor expect from a community medical provider?

A medical provider such as Riddle Memorial Hospital, Taylor Hospital, or Springfield Hospital can provide emergency and/or follow-up medical services and provide a forum to discuss any health care concerns related to the incident in a confidential medical setting. These are the current local hospitals which identify as having SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) nurses, who are trained to work to collect evidence in a manner consistent with evidence collecting requirements in Pennsylvania.

Under Pennsylvania law, a medical provider may be required to notify law enforcement of a sexual assault under certain circumstances. The medical provider, however, will share limited information with law enforcement and a complainant may decline to speak with a law enforcement officer or participate in a criminal prosecution. The medical provider will typically also notify the local rape crisis counseling center. In Delaware County, this is the Delaware County Women Against Rape (WAR). Survivors may also choose to seek care from a free-standing specialty health center such as the Philadelphia Sexual Assault Response Center (215-425-1625).

How can I help a victim/survivor of sexual harassment or sexual assault?

Support for survivors can be essential in their ability to recover. Here are some suggestions for how to help.

  • Be a good listener by being attentive and not passing judgment on what a survivor shares with you.
  • Respect the survivor's need for privacy.  It is the survivor's choice what and how much to share.  If you are a College employee, be candid about your obligation to refer the report to the Title IX Coordinator.
  • Remain patient with the survivor. Each person is different in how they cope and how much time it takes to heal.
  • Help to empower the survivor. Instead of offering advice, ask how you can best support the survivor. Offer encouragement, but do not pressure the survivor to take any particular action. Respect the survivor's decisions.
  • Be there for the survivor. Having someone there as the survivor explores medical, legal, and on-campus options can be comforting when faced with difficult decisions and interpreting processes and procedures.
  • Be mindful of your own needs and be sure to take care of yourself. People in supporting roles can benefit from professional assistance by speaking to a counselor or clergy member.

What exactly does a victim receive in the form of "support"? What does "support" mean?

Support can mean different things to different people, but the goal is to provide the victim with options and a variety of supportive resources - to make them aware of the confidential resources on and off campus, sensitively assess whether they feel safe or need an interim measure (change in room; switching classes), and providing information about their options for adjudication (disciplinary measure with sanctions) or remedies-based solution.  

    How can I help someone accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault?

    • Be a good listener by being attentive and not passing judgment.
    • Respect the accused's need for privacy and respect that individual's choice about what and how much to share. If you are a College employee, be candid about your obligation to refer the report to the Title IX Coordinator.
    • Help that individual identify resources, including confidential resources through CAPS.
    • Get educated on the issues of sexual assault and harassment.
    • Be respectful in your support of your friend, and do not engage in any actions on his/her behalf that could be retaliatory in nature. Allow the College judicial processes to fairly and impartially adjudicate a report.  
    • Encourage your friend to make good choices and to abide by any restrictions imposed by the College.
    • Be mindful of your own needs and be sure to take care of yourself. People in supporting roles can benefit from professional assistance by speaking to a counselor or clergy member.

    How do I make a report?

    Although there are many options available to students, the College encourages all reports to be made to the Title IX Coordinator Kaaren Williamsen, 610-690-3720.  For immediate assistance 24/7 contact Public Safety at 610-328-8281 or call 911. Members of Public Safety are trained to sensitively ensure your safety and provide you access to all available resources and reporting options. Additionally, any of the people identified as a resource are trained to share the available reporting options. Except for confidential care providers, College resources will share all reports with the Title IX Coordinator Kaaren Williamsen, who will ensure appropriate care and support as you consider your options. You can also use this online report form to report an incident and you always have the option to go to the police. No matter how you choose to report your privacy will be respected and the information will be shared with the limited circle of individuals who need to know in order to support you.

    Who can make a report?

    • A victim/survivor
    • A friend
    • A parent or guardian
    • A witness or third party
    • Anyone who requests action on behalf of a student, faculty, or staff member

    As a reporter, am I protected from retaliation?

    Yes. Any individual reporting sexual harassment or misconduct is entitled to protection from any form of retaliation following a report that is made in good faith, even if the report is not later substantiated.

    Is there a time limit for making a report?

    There is no time limit for making a report. The College encourages reporting an incident as soon as possible in order to maximize the College's ability to respond promptly and effectively. The College does not, however, limit the timeframe for reporting. If the respondent is no longer a student or employee, the College may not be able to take judicial action against the respondent, but it will still seek to meet its Title IX obligation by taking steps to end the harassment, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects. The College will also provide support and care for a victim/survivor and assist the victim/survivor with identifying other legal recourses, including making a report to law enforcement.

    Can I go to the police?

    Yes.You can always call  Swarthmore Borough Police: 610-543-0123 or 911. The College encourages you to contact law enforcement and will support you with that decision by providing transportation and accompaniment. Additionally, Swarthmore Police will help students who wish to obtain a Protection from Abuse Order.

    Can I go to the police and pursue action at the College?

    Yes. Students can bring criminal charges through the criminal justice system and use the College’s judicial procedures.

    What options can a victim/survivor can pursue under the College's Sexual Assault and Harassment Policy?

    Upon receipt of a referral or report, the College's Title IX team will conduct an initial Title IX assessment. The goal of this assessment is to provide an integrated and coordinated response to reports of sexual harassment or misconduct. The assessment will consider the nature of the referral, the safety of the individual and of the campus community, and the complainant's expressed preference for resolution. The Title IX team will make an immediate assessment of any risk of harm to individuals or to the campus community and will take steps necessary to address those risks. These steps may include interim protective measures to provide for the safety of the individual and the campus community

    Following this assessment, the College may seek a remedies-based resolution that does not involve disciplinary action against a respondent, or refer the matter for investigation. The goal of the investigation is to gather all relevant facts and determine if there is sufficient information to refer the report for disciplinary action using the College's judicial resolution procedures.

    Who is considered a confidential resource when a student confides they are a victim, or know of a victim, of sexual assault?

    If you are seeking confidential consultation, there are several resources available to provide confidential support, both on campus and in the local community. These trained professionals can provide counseling, information, and support under legally protected confidentiality. Because these relationships involve privileged conversations, these confidential resources will not share information with the Title IX Coordinator or any other employee of the College without the individual's express permission. They may, however, submit non-identifying information about the incident for purposes of making a statistical report under the Clery Act. 

    On campus, those who have legally recognized confidentiality are: Worth Health Center (610-328-8058; health@swarthmore.edu), Violence Prevention Educator and Advocate Nina Harris (610-328-8538; nharris1@swarthmore.edu), Counseling and Psychological Services (610-328-8059; caps@swarthmore.edu), and Religious Advisers (610-690-5744).

    Off campus confidential resources: Delaware County Women Against Rape (610-566-4342) and Mazzoni Center (215-563-0652 or 215-563-0658).

    Which College employees are required to report a sexual assault to the Title IX Coordinator when they become aware of one?

    With the exception of those who have legally recognized confidentiality (Worth Health Center staff, Counseling and Psychological Services counselors, and religious advisers), all College employees, including faculty, staff, administrators, and student employees or student volunteers who have the responsibility for the welfare of other students, are required to share with the Title IX Coordinator any report of sexual harassment or misconduct they receive or of which they become aware. These individuals must share with the Title IX Coordinator all information of which they are aware, including the identities of the parties, if known.

    This includes RAs, SMARTeam members, ASAP team members, DARTeam members, SAMs, and SwatTeam. These individuals are not considered confidential resources, and students serving in these positions are required by law to share referrals of sexual harassment or misconduct with the Title IX Coordinator who will sensitively explore all the resources and reporting options with anyone who reports sexual assault or harassment, track cases for appropriate responsiveness and partner with Public Safety to ensure that there is not a danger to any individual or the community.

    What students are required to refer reports of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator? 

    There are six groups the College has identified as required to refer incidents of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator: SwatTeam, RAs, ASAP, SMARTeam, DART members, and SAMs. While a student holds an active position in each of these groups, that student has a requirement to refer incidents to the Title IX Coordinator, whether or not the student learned of the incident through his/her formal role or through other activities the student participates in as a student.  Note: this reporting requirement is based on the law and guidance provided by the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights in their discussion of the "responsible employee."  

    With the exception of these six groups, all other student employee positions and student volunteer groups are encouraged to refer an incident to the Title IX Coordinator, but they are not required to do so.  Unless you are a member of one or more of the six groups required to make a referral to the Title IX Coordinator, you are not required to make a referral.  

    As a member of one of the six identified student groups required to refer all instances of sexual assault or harassment (RA, SMARTeam, DART or ASAP member, SAM, or PA), how quickly to I have to report?

    In the service of providing the most comprehensive support to the student, we are requiring the students to refer all the information the student knows about the situation as soon as possible. This helps our process in conducting a Title IX Assessment which allows for offering interim measures to students, sharing on campus & off campus resources and meeting our responsibilities under the Clery Act to assess the conduct for a Timely Warning to the community regarding an active safety threat. 

    The requirement to refer incidents of sexual misconduct to the Title IX Coordinator apply once a student takes on the role (becoming a PA, SAM, RA, DART, SMART, ASAP) and exists at all times. 

    As a member of one of the six identified student groups required to refer all instances of sexual assault or harassment, must I share information I learned about before I took on my new role (as an RA, SMARTeam member, DART or ASAP member, SAM, or PA)?

    No, you are not required to refer information you learned about prior to taking on your new role except in the presence of an active safety threat to campus.  Any student in one of these six groups who is aware of an ongoing or current potential hostile environment or active safety threat must report that information to the Title IX Coordinator regardless of when they learned the information.  A student in one of these six groups who has information that does not pose a current or ongoing threat and which was learned prior to a student assuming one of these roles is encouraged but not required to refer the information to the Title IX Coordinator.

    Once I am no longer a member of one of the six groups required to refer all instances of sexual assault or harassment, am I still required to refer what I learn if it is shared with me in confidence?

    No.  When the role is over, there is no longer a requirement to refer to the Title IX Coordinator. 

    How do I report child abuse?

    In accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law (23 Pa. C.S. § 6301), any Swarthmore College faculty or staff member who has reasonable cause to suspect abuse of a child (under 18) that the employee has come into contact with during the course of employment must make a report to Department of Public Safety. All other members of the Swarthmore College community (students, visitors, guests, etc.) are strongly encouraged to report whenever child abuse is suspected.

    Reports directly to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's ChildLine and Abuse Registry can be made anonymously. In order to ensure that the College gives the suspected abuse appropriate attention, employees are also required to report suspected abuse internally.

    To report suspected abuse if the child is in immediate danger, call x8333 (if on campus) or 911.

    To report suspected abuse if the child is not in immediate danger, call:

    • Swarthmore College Department of Public Safety: 610-328-8333; and
    • Swarthmore Borough Police Department: 610-543-0123; or
    • Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's ChildLine at 800-932-0313.

    Public Safety will ensure that all reports made will be promptly shared with local law enforcement and the Department of Public Welfare. Public Safety will also notify the campus reporter that the report was shared with the required external authorities.

    Read College’s full policy on Reporting Child Abuse.