Talking with Students About Sexual Misconduct
Faculty and Staff Guide
The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) is committed to supporting you and your students who have reported to you a possible incident of sexual misconduct. Whether the offending party is a member of our University community or not, there are resources available to help the student decide what they would like to do to best address the incident.
Confidential Resource v. Mandated Reporter. As a preliminary matter, unless you are classified as a Confidential Resource, you are considered a mandated reporter and required to report any incidents of alleged sexual misconduct that are brought to your attention to the University’s Title IX Coordinator. The following employees are considered Confidential Resources:
- Victim Advocate – Center for Women, Gender & Sexuality
- Counseling Center Professionals – Counseling Center
- Healthcare Practitioners – Office of Health Services
- Members of the Clergy – Center for Religious and Spiritual Life
The safety of the student is always the first priority. The University prioritizes the physical and emotional safety of students. The decision to file a formal complaint, whether with ODEI or with campus or local police authorities, or to only seek supportive measures and access to resources, is entirely up to the student.
A student should never be pressured into determining the course of action they want to pursue. Whether they wish to move forward with an informal resolution or with a full and complete investigation, or do nothing at this time, the student’s wishes should be honored and supported. If the student wants a comprehensive overview of possible options, offer to connect them with the University’s Victim’s Advocate in the Center for Women, Gender & Sexuality or with the Title IX Coordinator in ODEI.
If a student discloses to you an incident of sexual misconduct:
First: Listen and Support
- Listen without judgment.
- Avoid statements that may imply fault or responsibility for what happened.
- Offer empathy:
- “I’m sorry this happened to you. Thank you for telling me. It must be difficulty to talk about.”
- If the student asks you “not to tell anyone,” it is important to let the student know your reporting obligations. Offer to continue talking to them or assist to connect them with a Confidential Resource.
- “I’m glad you want to talk to me about a concern and that you feel comfortable speaking with me about something that I can see may be difficult to talk about. I want to make sure you understand my role here. I will do everything I can to protect your privacy but depending on what you tell me, I may need to inform the Title IX Coordinator of everything you are about to tell me.”
- “I am happy to talk to you more about your concerns; however, if you aren’t sure of whether you want this reported, I can help connect you with someone on campus who can assure you a higher level of confidentiality.”
- “My main concern is your safety and well-being, so I want to ensure you understand what my role might be in the process. I am happy to listen more if you feel comfortable speaking with me further.”
- Do not promise confidentiality. Depending on the facts (active safety threat to the community, for example), you may be required to share what the student reports to you.
- If the student wants to tell you what happened but also wants to maintain confidentiality, you should tell them that the University will consider the request, but cannot guarantee that the University will be able to honor it. In reporting details of the incident to the Title IX Coordinator, you will also inform the Title IX Coordinator of the victim’s request for confidentiality.
Second: Refer and Connect
- Ask if they want to speak with a Confidential Resource, such as the University’s Victim Advocate, professionals within the University Counseling Center, or a representative from the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life.
- Encourage them to review the available on-campus and off-campus resources.
- “I think you may be about to disclose an incident of sexual misconduct. Before you tell me details, I want to explain to you what your reporting options are, as well as explain Confidential Resources.”
Third: Contact ODEI
- The goal of your conversation with the student is to help them understand their options so they can make an informed choice about how to move forward. Explain that:
- Once the Title IX Coordinator is made aware of an incident, they will reach out to the student to ensure they are safe, offer supportive measures and resources, and inform them of their options, including filing a formal complaint. Assure them that the Title IX Coordinator will NOT initiate an investigation unless the file a formal, signed complaint.
- It is the student’s choice whether to file a formal complaint with ODEI or a criminal complaint with campus or local police authorities, unless there is an immediate threat to the University community.
- “I am very sorry to hear about what occurred. I want to assure you that we will handle this matter in a sensitive manner and that we take these concerns extremely seriously. I want to let you know that I have a responsibility to inform the Title IX Coordinator who can help address your concerns and ensure we are responding appropriately. Someone will contact you soon to inform you of your options. Please know that any response will be guided by what you would like to do.”
With the exception of being classified as a Confidential Resource, all faculty and staff members are mandated reporters and must report any instances of alleged sexual misconduct to the campus Title IX Coordinator. You may do so by submitting an online report , by calling 508-999-8810 or by sending an email to David Gomes, Title IX Coordinator, at email@example.com.