Mount Holyoke College uses a team approach in responding and supporting survivors of sexual assault. Typically the team will consist of a Public Safety and Service 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.
Public Safety and Service will not release your name to other College officials without your permission. Public Safety and Service is 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, Public Safety and Service 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.
Public Safety and Service, 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 Procedures in Dealing with Rape?
If you decide to call the Public Safety and Service 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 Public Safety and Service Officer will call in one of the department's sexual assault investigators who will interview you about the details of the rape. A Public Safety and Service 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 Public Safety and Service, 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 Public Safety and Service Approach to Sexual Assaults
Mount Holyoke College complies 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 crimes of sexual assault are reported so that the offenders can be apprehended and kept from repeating their actions.
The Public Safety and Service Department in recent years has provided specialized training for its officers to handle and investigate such offenses. Public Safety and Service 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.
All College officials, including deans, directors, and head residents, will notify Public Safety and Service 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. Public Safety and Service 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 Public Safety and Service 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 they decide 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.