Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding Title IX and the University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy:
- Does information about a complaint remain private?
The privacy of all parties to a complaint of sexual misconduct must be respected, except insofar as it interferes with the university’s obligation to fully investigate allegations of sexual misconduct. Where privacy is not strictly kept, it will still be tightly controlled on a need-to-know basis. Dissemination of information and/or written materials to persons not involved in the complaint procedure is not permitted. Violations of the privacy of the complainant or the accused individual may lead to disciplinary action by the university.
All parties will be informed of the outcome of an investigation. In some instances, the administration also may choose to make a brief public announcement of the nature of the violation and the action taken, without using the name or identifiable information of the alleged victim. Certain university administrators are informed of the outcome within the bounds of student/employee privacy (e.g., the President of the university, Dean of Students, Chief of Police). If there is a report of an act of alleged sexual misconduct presented to a Title IX or Deputy Title IX Coordinator of the university and there is evidence that a felony has occurred, local police will be notified. This does not mean charges will be automatically filed or that a victim must speak with the police, but the institution is legally required to notify law enforcement authorities. The institution also must statistically report the occurrence on campus of major violent crimes, including certain sex offenses, in an annual report of campus crime statistics. This statistical report does not include personally identifiable information.
- Will my parents be told (applicable to SHSU students)?
No, not unless you tell them. Whether you are the complainant or the accused individual, the university’s primary relationship is to the student and not to the parent. However, in the event of major medical, disciplinary, or academic jeopardy, students are strongly encouraged to inform their parents. University officials will directly inform parents when requested to do so by a student, in a life-threatening situation, or if an accused individual has provided written permission which allows such communication.
- Do I have to name the perpetrator?
Yes, if you want formal disciplinary action to be taken against the alleged perpetrator. No, if you choose to respond informally and do not file a formal complaint (but you should consult the complete confidentiality language above to better understand the university’s legal obligations depending on what information you share with different university officials). Victims should be aware that not identifying the perpetrator may limit the institution’s ability to respond comprehensively.
- What do I do if I am accused of sexual misconduct?
DO NOT contact the alleged victim. You may immediately want to contact someone in the campus community who can act as your advisor. You may also contact the Dean of Students Office or Human Resources Office, who can explain the university’s procedures for addressing sexual misconduct complaints. You may also want to talk to a confidential counselor at the counseling center or seek other community assistance. See below regarding legal representation.
- What about changing residence hall rooms?
If you want to move, you may request a room change. Room changes under these circumstances are considered emergencies. It is typically institutional policy that in emergency room changes, the student is moved to the first available suitable room. Other accommodations available to you might include:
• Assistance from university support staff in completing the relocation;
• Arranging to dissolve a housing contract and pro-rating a refund;
• Assistance with or rescheduling an academic assignment (paper, exams, etc.);
• Taking an incomplete in a class;
• Assistance with transferring class sections;
• Temporary withdrawal;
• Assistance with alternative course completion options;
• Other accommodations for safety as necessary.
- What should I do about preserving evidence of a sexual assault?
Police are in the best position to secure evidence of a crime. Physical evidence of a criminal sexual assault must be collected from the alleged victim’s person within 120 hours, though evidence can often be obtained from towels, sheets, clothes, etc. for much longer periods of time. If you believe you have been a victim of a criminal sexual assault, you should go to the nearest hospital emergency room, before washing yourself or your clothing. A Sexual Assault Nurse (a specially trained nurse) at the hospital is usually on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (call the emergency room if you first want to speak to the nurse; ER will refer you). If a victim goes to the hospital, local police will be called, but s/he is not obligated to talk to the police or to pursue prosecution. Having the evidence collected in this manner will help to keep all options available to a victim, but will not obligate him or her to any course of action. Collecting evidence can assist the authorities in pursuing criminal charges, should you, the victim, decide later to exercise it.
For the Victim: the hospital staff will collect evidence, check for injuries, address pregnancy concerns and address the possibility of exposure to sexually transmitted infections. If you have changed clothing since the assault, bring the clothing you had on at the time of the assault with you to the hospital in a clean, sanitary container such as a clean paper grocery bag or wrapped in a clean sheet (plastic containers do not breathe, and may render evidence useless). If you have not changed clothes, bring a change of clothes with you to the hospital, if possible, as they will likely keep the clothes you are wearing as evidence. You can take a support person with you to the hospital, and they can accompany you through the exam, if you want. Do not disturb the crime scene—leave all sheets, towels, etc. that may bear evidence for the police to collect.
- Will a victim be sanctioned when reporting a sexual misconduct policy violation if he/she has illegally used drugs or alcohol?
No. The severity of the infraction will determine the nature of the university’s response, but whenever possible the university will respond educationally rather than punitively to the illegal use of drugs and/or alcohol. The seriousness of sexual misconduct is a major concern and the university does not want any of the circumstances (e.g., drug or alcohol use) to inhibit the reporting of sexual misconduct.
- Will the use of drugs or alcohol affect the outcome of a sexual misconduct conduct complaint?
The use of alcohol and/or drugs by either party will not diminish the accused individual’s responsibility. On the other hand, alcohol and/or drug use is likely to affect the complainant’s memory and, therefore, may affect the outcome of the complaint. A person bringing a complaint of sexual misconduct must either remember the alleged incident or have sufficient circumstantial evidence, physical evidence and/or witnesses to prove his/her complaint. If the complainant does not remember the circumstances of the alleged incident, it may not be possible to impose sanctions on the accused without further corroborating information. Use of alcohol and/or other drugs will never excuse a violation by an accused individual.
- Will either party’s prior use of drugs and/or alcohol be a factor when reporting sexual misconduct?
Not unless there is a compelling reason to believe that prior use or abuse is relevant to the present complaint.
What should I do if I am uncertain about what happened?
If you believe that you have experienced sexual misconduct, but are unsure of whether it was a violation of the institution’s sexual misconduct policy, you should contact Title IX Coordinator, a Deputy Title IX Coordinator, or designee. The institution will help you to define and clarify the event(s), and advise you of your options.