Image: Graphic by Jacqueline Pei.
Dealing with sexual assault and consent can be messy, sensitive, and shrouded in gray. Luckily, Bruin Consent Coalition (BCC) is here to help. On the fourth day of Consent Week, BCC presented a Know Your Rights panel to present the options available for survivors after sexual assault.
One in four undergraduate women and one in twenty undergraduate men experience sexual assault on college campuses. To understand sexual assault, it is vital to understand sexual consent. Sexual consent is revocable. Ongoing. Enthusiastic. Voluntary. Unambiguous. Honestly, “it’s as simple as tea.”
Sexual assault occurs when consent is breached. Often, this induces mental and physical trauma that can make it difficult to cope and carry out the necessary steps towards getting justice and assistance. The Know Your Rights panel was composed of representatives from four different resources — the Title IX office, CARE at CAPS, the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center, and UCPD — presenting the options they offer for survivors to turn to in the aftermath of an assault.
Title IX Office: Reporting for an Administrative Avenue of Investigation
The Title IX office, located at 2241 Murphy Hall, is where survivors can report an instance of sexual assault and have it be thoroughly and fairly handled. They will take a complaint of sexual violence by call, email, in-person, or, as the Title IX office coordinator Kathleen Salvaty puts it: “You could send a rock through our window, for all we care. We’ll take the complaint in any form.”
Just this month, President Napolitano mandated that sexual violence complaints be handled by the investigators in the Title IX office, rather than the Dean of Students’ office. This administrative change distinguishes the university’s response to sexual violence violations from other code violations, like plagiarism and underage drinking. An investigator from the Title IX office will “make the findings of fact, and give a recommendation to the Dean of Students’ office as to whether or not there was violation of the student conduct code. The Dean of Students would then give the students an option of meeting with them and if there was a violation, they will assess a sanction.” After that, students will have the opportunity of an in-person hearing if they decide to appeal.
Kathleen firmly believes that this change in policy is a significant improvement from the previous policy: “Our obligation as a university is to conduct thorough, fair, and prompt investigations when we get a report of sexual violence. It is my belief that having a trained investigator, whose only job is to investigate these kind of complaints, better satisfies our duty to do that. The challenge of the student conduct hearing is that it was really on the students, both students, the respondent and the complainant, to come forward with whatever they thought the panel needed to hear. And if they couldn’t bring that information on that day that that hearing occurred, it’s just like ‘oh well.’” That’s not the case anymore. It’s our obligation to collect any and all relevant information, conduct that thorough investigation, and then make a finding. So I think that this better fulfills our legal obligation to conduct fair and thorough investigations.”
While initial investigations will be officially handled by the Title IX office, survivors will still have the choice to report to the Dean of Students office if they feel more comfortable doing so.
UC Police Department: The Criminal Avenue of Investigation
UCPD will also take a complaint of sexual violence, and handle it through the criminal avenue rather than the Title IX office’s administrative avenue. UCPD Lieutenant Scott Scheffler said,“Sometimes there will be definitions that don’t exactly match up. There may be a violation of administrative law but not necessarily be a violation of criminal law.” But even if the assault cannot be processed as a violation of criminal law, UCPD will still handle the complaint thoroughly and then refer survivors to resources, like the Title IX office, the Dean of Students’ office, or the Rape Treatment Center.
While UCPD will take complaints directly by call, sometimes they will arrive to assist in emergency rooms, hospitals, and rape treatment centers, which are mandated reporters of sexual assault even if the survivor has not directly asked for UCPD’s assistance. However, Scott emphasizes that even if they show up, the survivor is not obligated to file a report or even talk to UCPD if they do not feel comfortable doing so, but that UCPD’s role is simply asking the questions to try to find out what happened and try to help. “Our ultimate goal is to try and get help for the person who may need it.”
Scott makes it clear that “UCPD is cognizant of the confidentiality and sensitivity of these crimes.” They will let survivors report anonymously and always ask survivors for permission before disclosing any information in a referral to other resources like the Title IX office or the Dean of Students’ office.
“Just because something may not be a criminal violation, we’re still a resource that is available 24/7 to answer questions and to help.”
CARE at CAPS: An On-Campus, Confidential Resource for Healing and Safety Management
CARE (Campus Assault Resource and Education) at CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services), located in John Wooden Center West, is a confidential resource for survivors to turn to for mental, emotional, and physical support. Victoria Molino, the CARE advocate, is available for survivors if they are not sure how they want to proceed with reporting the assault, medical services available for evidence and for physical trauma, and coping with the emotional, academic, housing, and day-to-day struggles that emerge as a result of the incident.
Victoria assures survivors of sexual assault that they can “come and meet with me if you’re not sure if you want to report to the police or to Kathy in the Title IX office. I can walk you through what it looks like to report to the administration on campus, what it looks like to report to the police. I can accompany students to any of those meetings. They might feel more comfortable having me there, and I can help protect them during that process.”
After an assault, it is critical to collect evidence and be treated for STIs and STDs within 5 days, which is where the Rape Treatment Center can assist with free of charge. But if survivors are not able to get to the Rape Treatment Center in time, Victoria and the Ashe Center work together to waive the medical fees for survivors for the necessary medical services after those five days.
Victoria also helps survivors dealing with the day-to-day consequences of the trauma like struggling in school in the aftermath of a sexual assault, in which she would try to “request extensions and work with professors to get accommodations around that. I can’t work magic but I can ask.”
Emergency housing transfers is a critical safety precaution to take for survivors of sexual assault, as most survivors of sexual assault are assaulted by somebody that they know, somebody close in their lives. To protect survivors’ safe living arrangements, Victoria “can work with the housing department to get you out of a situation or easily transferred. There’s some requirements to get out and sometimes there’s mediation requirements and all this other stuff, but I can actually bypass that process to get people to safer housing.”
Victoria also works closely with the counseling services at CAPS to get survivors the therapy that they need and work on the safety management of survivors in the aftermath of the trauma they’ve endured.
In addition to the advocacy work that Victoria does, CARE also provides prevention and education as well as trauma-informed yoga for survivors. CAPS also has a 24/7 hotline for crisis counseling.
Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center: Free Medical Assistance and Healing Services Close to Campus
The Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center, open 24/7, is located at 16th and Wilshire, in the Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center. La Shonda Coleman, Director of College Programs at the Santa Monica Rape Treatment Center,
The Rape Treatment Center provides emergency medical services within 5 days of physical sexual assault. Survivors meet with a counselor to advocate for them, provide information of their options and rights, offer a head-to-toe physical examination, offer to collect evidence if they might want to file a report.
The free, head-to-toe medical examination is critical to the healing process for survivors. La Shonda explains that the exam “can really help initiate healing right away: to understand what’s happening to their body, to feel a sense of agency and control over their body, especially after a time when they’ve been violated.”
Recognizing that survivors may be undecided on whether or not to file a report, but understand that collecting evidence is time-sensitive, La Shonda assures that “we extend the option of collecting evidence by freezing it. By freezing it, it gives that person more time to decide what is best for them. They can come back two days later, two weeks later, two years later, or not at all. we maintain custody of that evidence that has been collected. If they’re ever ready, they can come back knowing it’s there and it’s secure.”
The Rape Treatment Center is a mandated reporter, but survivors who are 18 years or older always retain the right to file or not to file a report when the police arrive.
The RTC also offers free medication to prevent pregnancy and free medications to reduce transmission of commonly transmitted STDs and STIs to survivors of sexual assault. Crisis intervention is also available for survivors, to let them know that “they’re not alone in that moment. We’re helping to support them in coming up with a plan for the next 24/7 hours. We ask permission to follow up with that person someone within 48 hours, ideally, just to check in.”
Understanding that not all survivors can access their resources for a multitude of financial, personal, or safety reasons, the RTC can coordinate free transportation to their facilities. Like CARE at CAPS, the RTC will also be available to accompany survivors of sexual assault to police interviews, prosecutor meetings, and medical examinations, so survivors can feel a little more comfortable through the processes.