Best Practices for Implementing Your Role as a Mandated Reporter of Sexual Assault, Intimate Partner Violence and Stalking

For Faculty, Staff & Administrators

This page provides information and resources for faculty, staff and administrators who receive reports of sexual assault or rape from students, colleagues or acquaintances. If someone voluntarily discloses that they* have experienced sexual assault or rape, know that this person likely trusts you and it is important for you to provide support and reassurance as they make decisions about what to do. Survivors of sexual assault can be significantly affected throughout their recovery by the actions and attitudes of the people in their support system. You can provide support in your willingness to listen with a nonjudgmental attitude. If you find you are unable to respond to a survivor of sexual assault in a supportive manner, please provide the survivor with the phone number of the North Coast Rape Crisis Team: (707) 445-2881 and HSU's Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS): (707) 826-3236

Keep the following in mind when speaking with, listening to, or otherwise offering support to a survivor of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, or stalking:

I. Inform students of your role as a mandated reporter

If a student tells any HSU staff or faculty member about having survived sexualized violence, including rape, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking, and specifies that this violence occurred while they were an HSU student, federal and state education laws require that staff and faculty notify the Dean of Students, Randi Darnall Burke, who will then contact the student to let them know about accommodations and support services at HSU, as well as possibilities for holding accountable the person who harmed them.

Do your best to ensure that the student knows that you are a mandated reporter before they disclose an incident that you must report.

When necessary, interrupt students to inform them of your role.  You might say, “I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I want you to be informed about your choices regarding what you tell and to whom this information is reported.  Have you seen this door poster? There are a number of issues where I am required to report what you tell me to the Dean of Students.  I’m happy to talk with you and put you in touch with Randi Darnall Burke, but if you’d like to first explore options for support, accommodations and accountability with someone who can keep your information confidential, here’s a list of numbers you can call.”

Randi Darnall Burke • (707) 826-5694 darnall@humboldt.edu

CSAs are required to make reports of known incidents of sexual assaults to UPD. Reports can also be made anonymously.

University Police Department • (707) 826-5555

Watch for warning signs and be honest with the survivor. Be aware that if a student’s life is in danger or if a student poses serious risk of harm to himself or herself or to others, you will not be able to maintain confidentiality. If you have determined that they have a clear intent and a plan to harm themselves or others, you must call 911 and report immediately.

II. When a Student Chooses to Talk with You about Sexual Assault, Intimate Partner Violence or Stalking

A. Remember your role

You are not a counselor, you are not an investigator, and you are not called upon to name, analyze, or define students’ experiences.
You are a bridge to connect the student with Randi Darnall Burke who will provide the survivor with options for support, accommodations and accountability.  We also encourage you to provide the student with immediate information about 24 hour resources for support:  Counseling and Psychological Services, North Coast Rape Crisis Team and Humboldt Domestic Violence Services all have 24 hour crisis lines.

B. Keep the survivor’s needs and feelings at the center of the process

Offer nonjudgmental support. Remember that healing is a highly individual process and whichever decisions the survivor makes are the right ones for him or her at that time. Part of a survivor’s recovery is about regaining control that was lost in the event of violence. Be supportive of whichever decisions the survivor makes. Do ask what you can do to assist the survivor and be clear with both yourself and the survivor about what you do and do not feel comfortable with.

Do listen respectfully and believe the studentVery few people lie about sexual assault or rape. In fact, there is severe under-reporting of these crimes. Consider how difficult it is to recount, and by extension often re-live, trauma by talking about an experience of sexual violence. Your ability to listen and respond in nonjudgmental ways can help to change the culture of silence that exists around sexualized violence.

Do remind the survivor that it is not their fault. The responsibility lies with the perpetrator in making a decision to violate the bodily integrity of another person. No matter what the person was wearing or how much they had to drink, they are not responsible for having been sexually assaulted. Asking questions, such as "Why didn’t you scream/leave?" or "Why did you go to that person's house/invite them over?" is "victim blaming", which can be extremely harmful to survivors of sexualized violence.

Do let the survivor know that you care, using a calm and compassionate tone.
Do say something like, “I’m so sorry that you have to go through this.” 

Don’t overly express your own feelings about what happened to them. 
Don’t say, “It’s outrageous that you’ve had to experience this!”
Remember: if we react with shock and outrage we may silence survivors.  Survivors will often shift away from identifying and discussing their own needs to responding to our reaction. If met with an overly emotional response, survivors may feel like they have to take care of us.

Do acknowledge your non-verbal expressions, when appropriate: If a strong emotion flickers across your face as you listen, e.g., if you know that anger passed over your face, do acknowledge it. 
Do say (in a calm voice) something like, “If you saw anger on my face I just want you to know that I wasn’t angry at you; I felt anger at the fact that someone would choose to harm you.”

Don’t define their experience for them.
Don’t say, “Well, it sounds to me like you were raped!”

Do use the words the survivor uses to describe their experience.  If they say rape, don’t interrogate them about what they mean.  If they say “taken advantage of” or “violated” use those words, or other general terms such as “harm.”

Do validate that what happened to them was not ok.
Do say something like, “I am so sorry that person harmed you.”

Remember: none of us have the magic words that will support survivors in all contexts. Even from the best of intentions we might say something hurtful.  If you see that what you said caused the survivor to become upset, acknowledge this.  You might say something like, “I think what I said that just made this harder for you.” 

C. Establish clear boundaries and be a bridge to forms of support

Offer forms of support that are appropriate for your role:  Let the survivor know what you can realistically offer to support them. For instance, if you are a faculty member you can, if you choose, offer extensions on deadlines for course work.  Or you can refer them to Randi to explore options of late withdrawal from your class if the violence is impairing their ability to pass your class.  If you are a supervisor of a student employee, let them know if there are options for taking time off and/or rearranging their work schedule. 

For support that is needed beyond your role, serve as a bridge to campus and community support and resources
Don’t say: “I’ll be there for you in whatever way you need.”
Do say:  “We have campus and community resources to help support you. Here’s a resource sheet with 24 hour numbers for CAPS, NCRCT and HDVS.” 
Don’t say: “I’ll show up at the court case.” 
Do say: “If you would like to have someone with you at the court case, Randi will be able to tell you the options for advocates who can go with you and NCRCT also has advocates who can accompany you.”
Don’t say: “I’ll make sure justice will be served.”
Do say: “Randi will help to make sure you are connected with the people who can assist you throughout the process.

D. If a Student discloses committing an act of violence

Call Randi to let her know that you have reason to believe a student has committed sexual assault, intimate partner violence or stalking.   Do not let the student know you are reporting to Randi, as this could interfere with the investigation and/or could result in retaliation.

III. After fulfilling your obligation to report to Randi, keep the student’s information private

If the topic of a student survivor’s performance as an employee or success in the major comes up in department meetings, provide the minimum information you can in order to support the student. Don’t say:  Since she was raped she’s been struggling in my class. Do say: She is in the midst of a significant crisis.

Respect boundaries; establish confidentiality to the extent possible. Let the survivor decide when to tell other people in their life. Ask before touching or hugging the survivor. Assure the survivor that you will not talk about their experience to anyone besides those to whom you are required to make reports.
           
A note on confidentiality:

  • All HSU faculty and staff are required to make reports to the Dean of Students, Randi Darnall Burke and provide the name of the student who experienced the incident of sexualized violence.
  • CSAs, are required to make reports of incidents of sexual assaults to UPD. These reports should protect the anonymity of the survivor if the survivor wishes to remain anonymous. Other members of the campus community are under no obligation to make reports to UPD, although UPD does encourage the gathering of data.
  • If you feel that you need to discuss your own thoughts or feelings after helping a survivor, you are welcome to call the North Coast Rape Crisis Team, 24 hours a day, at (707) 445-2881, as well as HSU's Counseling & Psychological Services, 24 hours a day, at: (707) 826-3236. If you talk with anyone else, please remember that we live in a very small community and simply mentioning the location of the assault, the date it occurred, or other basic information about the survivor (academic major, athletic affiliations, etc.) can be enough identifying information to destroy anonymity.

Confidential Resources for Survivors

Options for students to talk with someone confidentially include the following people and organizations:

North Coast Rape Crisis Team                              
(707) 445-2881, 24-hour hotline

Humboldt Domestic Violence Services
(707) 443-6042, 24-hour hotline

University Police Department
(707) 826-5555

HSU’s Counseling & Psychological Services*                             
(707) 826-3236, M-F 8-5 crisis counseling; 24 hour crisis line

Mira Friedman, HSU Health Educator*
(707) 826-5234, mira@humboldt.edu

Mary Sue Savage, Prevention Coordinator*
(707) 826-5234, mss62@humboldt.edu

*If it’s determined that a perpetrator poses an imminent threat to the broader campus community, these HSU employees are required to notify the Dean of Students and/or the campus police.

*The pronouns "they", "them" and "their" are often used here to replace the third-person singular in part to improve readability, and also as part of a small effort to disrupt the gender binary.