How and to whom may a student victim report a rape or sexual assault?
Mount Holyoke College uses an anonymous sexual assault recording form to gather accurate information on the incident of these crimes on this campus. Requiring a minimal amount of general information, the form in no way identifies the survivor.
Students may report to members of the following departments:
- Associate Dean of the College Office
- Counseling Center
- Dean of the College
- Dean of the Faculty
- Health Center
- Office of Religious Life
- Ombuds Office
- Campus Police
- Residential Life
How does the College handle report of a sexual assault?
Mount Holyoke College uses a team approach in responding and supporting survivors of sexual assault. Typically the team will consist of a Campus Police sexual assault investigator, a counselor from the Health Center or Everywoman's Center, and the Dean on Call. Team members will only be called with permission of the victim.
By Massachusetts General Law, the police and court records that contain the name of the victim in a case of rape or assault with intent to rape must be withheld from public inspection. Except as permitted by a judge, it is unlawful to publish or disclose rape victim's names.
The Campus Police will not release your name to other College officials without your permission. The Campus Police are required by federal law to notify the members of the community of any events or incidents that place people at risk; and will do so while maintaining the confidentiality of your identity.
In conducting a thorough investigation of a rape or an assault, Campus Police will assign an officer who has received specialized training in investigating sexual assaults. During the investigation, the officer will ask you many questions and go over the details of the crime. This is necessary because a person frequently recalls additional information and details during subsequent interviews. This procedure is not intended to embarrass or intimidate you.
Campus Police, the Dean's Office, and the Health Center staff collaborate to assist victims. However, because of confidentiality constraints on victim information, each organization needs permission to exchange information. Departments will not release information without the survivor's permission.
What are the Police Procedures in Dealing with Rape?
If you decide to call the Campus Police Department:
- A uniformed officer will arrive and insure your safety. The officer will encourage you to go and escort you to the Health Center or other medical facility for treatment, based on the nature of your injuries and get a description of the assailant(s) for possible apprehension.
- You will receive medical attention and a medical report will be made for use should you decide to press charges.
- The Campus Police Officer will call in one of the department's sexual assault investigators who will interview you about the details of the rape. A Campus Police officer will suggest that a counselor be present along with medical staff to reduce the number of times a survivor retells the incident. Other options such as notification of the Dean on call will also be discussed.
If you decide to report a rape to the Campus Police, it does not mean that you must go to court and prosecute. Decisions about prosecution are made later. Filing a report preserves evidence and documents the incident to protect your rights.
The Campus Police Approach to Sexual Assaults
Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and Hampshire College comply with the Federal Higher Education Amendments of 1992 (Public Law 102-325), which contain provisions requiring colleges to develop and disseminate sexual assault policies. Therefore it is crucial that women report crimes of sexual assault so that the offenders can be apprehended and kept from repeating their actions.
The Campus Police Department in recent years has provided specialized training for its officers to handle and investigate such offenses. Campus Police officers will assist victims of rape and sexual assault by obtaining medical attention for any injuries, fully investigating the incident, providing liaison with the South Hadley Police Department and the Hampshire County District Attorney's office, and advising victims of their rights to counseling and other services offered by the College and the community. Survivors are involved in all decisions about proceeding with criminal charges. The victim's name in all reports of sexual assaults is kept confidential, by Massachusetts law, and will not be released without her or his permission.
If a sex offense occurs on campus, contact the Campus Police Department. All College officials, including deans, directors, and head residents, will notify the Campus Police if they receive a report of a sexual assault. These reports do not reveal the survivors’ names without permission. However, the College must comply with federal law in providing statistical information for the community. The Campus Police Department has been designated to receive all statistical reports of sexual assault and to report those centralized statistics to the community.
Although pastoral and professional counselors are exempt from reporting campus crimes, the college encourages them, if appropriate, to inform persons they are counseling of the process of reporting on a voluntary, confidential basis for inclusion in the annual statistic or for a criminal investigation.
Confidential, sensitive care, examination, and treatment are available twenty-four hours a day at the Health Center, hospital, or other medical facilities. An important part of the criminal investigation is the collection of physical evidence. Victims should go to the Health Center as soon as possible after the incident (without showering, douching, or changing first, although they should bring a change of clothes if possible). The Health Center is available for initial assessment. Survivors are sent to Cooley Dickinson Hospital for the complete evidentiary examination and treatment. The evidence will be used only if the victim chooses to prosecute. The Campus Police are always available for campus transport of sexual assault or rape victims.
If a student is the victim of a crime on campus, they will be given information about off-campus resources and procedures for filing a civil/criminal complaint. Students are strongly encouraged to consider and investigate this option.
The Victim/Witness Assistance unit of the Northwestern District Attorney's office provides information and guidance to victims throughout the investigation and complaint process. Members of this department will provide information about the court process, victim's rights, restraining orders and social service referrals. The Victim/Witness office will also facilitate consultation with an attorney to discuss the viability of a case. In cases in which a student is considering pursuing both disciplinary and criminal complaints, the District Attorney's Office normally advises that the student pursue the complaint through the criminal justice system first, since college disciplinary records can be subpoenaed, and could affect the outcome of a criminal case.
What are College Judicial Procedures for Sexual Assault?
Sexual assaults allegedly committed by a Mount Holyoke student can be reported and adjudicated by the College student judicial system. However, in cases of a concurrent criminal prosecution, the College defers to the criminal case. During a College on-campus disciplinary case, the accuser and the accused are entitled to the same opportunities to have others present during the disciplinary hearing. Both parties are informed of the outcome of any disciplinary proceeding. Sanctions arising out of a campus disciplinary proceeding alleging a rape (including acquaintance rape) or other sex offense (forcible or nonforcible) include but are not limited to suspension or expulsion from the College.
Sexual assaults allegedly committed by a Mount Holyoke employee can be reviewed under the College's Human Resources disciplinary policies. However, in cases of a concurrent criminal prosecution, the college reserves the option to initiate a separate disciplinary investigation. Although the criminal case will lead to a conclusion, disciplinary action may be taken to protect the college community regardless of that outcome. Sanctions arising out of an employee disciplinary proceeding alleging a rape (including acquaintance rape) or other sex offense (forcible or nonforcible) include but are not limited to termination of employment.
What are some of the Considerations?
In cases of assault there are numerous options for a survivor to explore if she/he decides to take disciplinary action. There are resources on campus and in the Amherst/Northampton area to assist victims.
It is important for survivors to investigate their alternatives carefully. When deciding which path to follow it is important to keep a few things in mind:
- What outcome is desired? What do you as a victim of a crime want to see happen next? While it is important to recognize the difficulty of presenting and proving these cases, it is also imperative that you examine all your options and rights.
- Action on campus does not exclude action off campus as well.
- Many victims become frustrated because everyone is telling them what to do or, conversely, everyone seems unwilling to give an opinion. Only you can decide what to do. Taking action against your perpetrator is a step that takes a great deal of courage, and although the decision to proceed has to be made by you, this does not mean that you have to go through the decision-making process alone.
What To Do If A Friend or Acquaintance Is Raped
If a friend who has been sexually assaulted asks for your help, you can support her by providing what comfort you can and seeing that she receives the necessary medical aid. You can also ensure that she takes the appropriate steps for reporting the incident to the police. It is important that you accompany your friend to the police, staying with her until all necessary procedures have been completed.
Here are some suggestions of ways you can help a friend who has been raped:
- Be supportive. Let her know that you care about her, that you believe her, and that she is not alone.
- Encourage her to express her feelings about what has happened to her.
- Be interested and empathic without prying or pressing for details.
- Try not to criticize or judge.
- Respect her decisions about what she wants: who to tell, whether or not to report to the police, what makes her feel safe, etc.
- If you are a man, be aware that her reaction to you may be complicated; she may want affection, or she may have generalized fears of all men.
- Try not to express your own feelings of anger or helplessness to her, or to project them onto her. Talk about these feelings with another friend or professional counselor.
For Residence Hall Staff: When a Student Is Assaulted…
- If a student comes to you voluntarily, you know that she trusts you; it is important to remain a supportive reassurance as she makes decisions about what to do. Studies show that a survivor of sexual assault is significantly affected throughout her recovery by the actions of and attitudes of the people in her support system. Your openness, willingness to listen, and nonjudgmental support may be a key factor in her progress from victim to survivor.
- You may wonder if what happened was "really rape". You may ask yourself why the student did not scream, run, or fight back. These concerns properly belong to the courts and to psychological counselors. Your job is to listen, to make referrals, and to offer support.
- Take special care to help the student obtain the assistance of legal, counseling and college resources. Follow up with her to see how she is doing.
- You must also be aware that if a student's life is in danger or if a student poses serious risk of harm to others, you may not be able to maintain confidentiality. As an employee of the College, you have an obligation to report your concern that someone's life may be threatened to other college officials.
- Guidelines for Helping a Friend or Acquaintance who has been a Victim of a Rape:
- Very few people lie about rape or sexual assaults.
- No one asks to be raped. No matter what your friend was wearing, how they were acting, how much they had to drink, they are not responsible for being sexually assaulted.
- Encourage your friend to seek medical attention at the Mount Holyoke College Health Center or a hospital, if the rape occurred recently. A medical examination can detect and prevent injuries, STDs, and pregnancy and maybe able to detect memory-altering drugs.
- No matter where the survivor lives, there are always services listed in the phone book. The Yellow Pages list local rape crisis centers under "Rape" or "Social/Human Services".
- Allow your friend to tell you as little or as much as they want at their own pace.
- Although you may not mean to, some questions may put your friend on the defensive.
- For example: "Why didn't you just leave?"
- "Did you scream?"
- "Why did you go to the room alone?" Instead try asking: "What happened?"
- "How are you feeling?"
- "What do you feel you want to do now?"
- Although your natural response may be to give your friend a hug, be aware that after a sexual assault many victims do not feel comfortable with physical contact.
- Speaking to one of the resources listed in this book may be helpful to your friend. Volunteer to accompany him/her. Having someone s/he trusts may make it easier to talk about the attack. A discussion with one of these people could explore counseling, medical, disciplinary, and legal issues, as well as academic concerns and housing alternatives.
- The most important part of a survivor's recovery is regaining the control that the rapist took away. Help your friend find what options they have, and be supportive of whatever decisions they make.
- Hearing about a sexual assault is an upsetting experience. You may want to talk to a trusted friend or counselor about your own feelings.