Disclosure of sexual assault/harassment/intimate partner violence/stalking
Faculty and staff play an important role in preventing and responding to sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, and stalking on campus. A number of violence prevention resources exist for faculty and staff specifically.
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Know your reporting obligations
UW–Madison employees are required to report first-hand student disclosures of sexual assault. These reports may trigger crime warnings and institutional investigations.
Student survivors are most likely to confide in friends and trusted adults. Your response can be an important part of their path to healing and critical to their continued access and pursuit of educational opportunities.
If a student discloses to you, it is generally a sign that they trust you and feel you are a caring person. Some reasons they may be coming to you:
You have conveyed that you promote respect and safety.
They perceive that you are in a position to offer assistance, like adjusting their work schedule or helping them with academic adjustments.
They don’t know where else to go.
By educating yourself and following guidelines, you can confidently and effectively respond to students who experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking. It may also be helpful to familiarize oneself with campus and community resources for victims and survivors.
Be clear about your role
It’s important to be honest and clear about the limits of your confidentiality before the student shares their experience.
Something you could say:
Before we continue, I want to let you know that I may be required to report to campus officials information that is shared with me about incidences of sexual violence and harassment. This could prompt an investigation and a campus crime warning. If you would like to first speak with someone who is confidential, I can help you connect to one of those resources.
Providing students with this information allows them to make informed decisions about how they feel is best to proceed. Some students may choose not to share information about their experience but may still need your help to arrange supportive adjustments in class or at work. Your role is to provide a compassionate and appropriate response to the student.
Listen, support, refer
Listening to a student is the most important thing that you can do. No one deserves to be a victim of violence, regardless of the circumstances. Let the student know they are not to blame.
I’m sorry that happened.
Thank you for telling me.
How much were you drinking?
Why didn’t you call the police?
Allowing the student to make choices about how to proceed after an assault or an abusive relationship is a way for them to regain the control that was taken away. Work with them to consider options and how you may be in a position to provide help, for example, by granting changes to assignments, providing extensions, etc.
What do you think would be helpful for you today?
I think you need to report this right now.
You are not expected to be an expert; however, you can direct the student to offices and agencies who have well-trained staff to provide victim support. Read more about campus and community resources.
Would it be helpful to talk to someone further about this?
You need to talk to the Dean of Students Office about this immediately.