Supporting Students

 

Faculty and staff have a responsibility to provide resources and support for victims who disclose their experiences of sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, or stalking.

Review of Definitions

  • Sexual Assault is defined as any sexual contact made without consent. Consent needs to be given freely, with overt words or actions, and clearly communicates a person’s sexual boundaries and desires.

  • Sexual Harassment is a pattern of sexual behavior that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or sexually offensive environment.

  • Dating/Domestic Violence refers to an ongoing pattern of controlling and abusive behaviors that individuals use against their intimate partners. These behaviors include physical, sexual, or emotional attacks and /or economic control.

  • Stalking is repeated behaviors directed at a specific person that cause a reasonable person to feel intimidated and afraid. These behaviors could include following the victim, sending the victim unwanted items, or contacting the victim through phone, email, social media or letter.

  • Complainant: Under College Policy, individuals who have experienced conduct are generally referred to as "complainants."

  • Respondent: Under College Policy, individuals accused of sexual misconduct are generally referred to as “respondents.” 

The Role of Faculty/Staff in Responding to Victims

Faculty and staff frequently serve as the initial contact person for victims’ disclosure of their experiences with sexual assault, harassment, dating/domestic violence, and stalking.

Most students do not choose to disclose or file reports with law enforcement officers, often because they do not think the incident was serious, they are afraid of parents and friends finding out, or because they fear that they will not be believed or will be treated with hostility. If they are sharing it with you, they likely consider you a trusted adult.

Per federal guidelines and Swarthmore policy, all Swarthmore faculty and staff, other than those who have been designated confidential, must consult with the Title IX Coordinator or a Deputy Title IX Coordinator upon a disclosure of an incident of sexual misconduct.  The Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Title IX Coordinator will reach out to the reporting party to offer resources and support.  

What to Do if a Student Discloses to You

  1. Listen, without judgment. Listening is the single most important thing you can do. No one deserves to be a victim of violence regardless of the circumstances. Avoid blaming the student for what occurred and asking questions that imply fault, such as “How much were you drinking?” or “Why didn’t you call the police?” Instead say something like, “I’m so sorry that this happened to you. Thank you for telling me.” Let the victim know that they are not to blame for what happened: “It’s not your fault.” Victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, and stalking are often met with disbelief when they decide to tell someone. Remember, you are not an investigator tasked with determining if this happened or who is responsible, but a confidant. The best thing you can do is reinforce that you believe the survivor and tell them they were right to tell you.

  2. Explain your role and submit a third-party report to the Title IX Coordinator, Kaaren Williamsen. As a Swarthmore employee, unless you are designated as a confidential resource, you are required by law to report any disclosures of sexual assault or harassment to the Title IX Coordinator. These reports are private, but must include identifiable information about the victim. Reports may either be made with the victim or after the victim has left your office, but you must tell the student that you are required by law to share this information with the Title IX Coordinator. Reports should include the date, time, location (on or off-campus) of assault, and whether or not the victim and/or perpetrator are Swarthmore students. Once the Title IX Coordinator receives a report, they will send the victim information about support and resources, and invite them to come in for assistance. While the College has an obligation to reach out to provide resources and assess campus safety, the victim is not required to participate in a meeting or possible investigation. A report to the Title IX Coordinator does not start the formal adjudication process. See here for more information about reporting.

  3. Refer the victim to resources on campus and in the community that are specifically designed to deal with these issues. You are not expected to be an expert; however, you can direct the victim to people who are. If the incident involved bodily harm, advise the student to get immediate medical attention.

  4. Support the student’s decisions about how to proceed. Avoid giving advice or telling the victim what they “should” or “must” do. It is not helpful to push someone toward making a choice that they’re not ready for or don’t want to take. Sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, and stalking are about someone else taking control of one's life and body. A survivor’s healing depends on getting that control back.

  5. Don’t be afraid to follow up with the student after the disclosure. Letting students know that you take their disclosure seriously and that you care about their well-being can be extremely validating for a victim. For example, begin the conversation with “I was thinking about the conversation we had the other day. How are you doing?”

  6. Be sure to obtain information and support for yourself as a helper. Being exposed to issues related to sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, and stalking can be difficult. It is not uncommon for first responders to experience secondary/vicarious trauma, and it can be helpful to discuss your experiences or feelings with another professional.

If you need more information or are not sure what to do, please contact Title IX Coordinator, Kaaren Williamsen at kwillia1@swarthmore.edu or 610-690-3720.