How to Talk with a Survivor of Sexual Assault
- Keep their information private.
- Reassure them that it’s not their fault.
- Don’t confront their attacker(s), as this may endanger them further.
- Don’t hug or touch them without permission.
- Don’t ask them pointed questions (e.g. “What were you wearing?” or “Why did you get that drunk?”) or to relive details of the assault.
- Help them reclaim control over their life by listening to them and respecting their wishes.
- Provide resources for counseling and medical care, including emergency contraception. Survivors have a right to a rape kit and exam by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, which must be done no later than 72 hours after an assault. However, don’t force a survivor to report the crime, seek medical attention, or tell their guardian(s).
The Bare Minimum (What Schools Must Do)
Jeanne Clery Act
The Clery Act is a federal law passed in 1990 that requires all colleges receiving federal funding to report crime statistics for incidents occurring on campus, in areas immediately next to campus, and at some non-campus facilities (e.g. off-campus Greek houses). The Clery Act requires schools to create proactive prevention education programs on healthy relationships, sexuality, consent, and bystander intervention; publish all reported incidents in publicly-available annual crime reports; and alert the campus of known public safety risks.
The Clery Act also requires schools to provide certain rights to survivors of sexual assault, including notifying survivors of their housing, academic, reporting, and counseling options. Learn more about the specifics of the Clery Act and whether or not your school is compliant here. Clery Act complaints have no statutes of limitations and can be submitted via email.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination in education programs or activities that receive federal funding, requiring such colleges and universities to remedy and prevent sexual violence, including sexual assault and harassment. Under this law, every school must have a Title IX coordinator who is responsible for overseeing all Title IX complaints and can identify and address any patterns or systemic problems revealed by these complaints. To learn more about Title IX and brush up on your rights as a student, visit Know Your IX.
Anyone, whether or not they are a survivor of sexual assault, may file a Title IX complaint against a school that has failed to comply with the law. Title IX complaints are confidential and must be filed with the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) within 180 days. File a Title IX complaint online here.
Campus SaVE Act
Congress passed the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, a provision of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization, in March of 2013. Campus SaVE strengthens Title IX by requiring schools to create prevention programs and clarifying schools’ obligation to make survivors aware of their reporting options. Campus SaVE also strengthened the Clery Act by broadening the range of reportable crimes to include domestic and dating violence, stalking, hate crimes, and four categories of sexual assault: rape, fondling, incest, and statutory rape. After the Campus SaVE Act was passed, the Obama Administration issued new rules which went into effect in July 2015, that clarify the rights of survivors and the responsibilities of schools to provide information on relevant disciplinary proceedings, possible sanctions for sexual misconduct, and resources available to survivors.
In 2017, former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rescinded existing Title IX guidance documents and published new interim guidance favoring perpetrators of sexual violence on campuses. This guidance allows schools to impose a clear and convincing evidence standard to grievance procedures, basically giving the alleged perpetrator, and the perpetrator only, the presumption of truth. The interim guidance also allows schools to give the perpetrator, and only the perpetrator, the ability to appeal a finding. In addition, the Department will allow schools to mediate all Title IX disputes, including cases of sexual assault, essentially forcing survivors to “work it out” with their alleged perpetrator. However, schools are not obligated to follow a clear and convincing evidence standard and can still choose to use the preponderance of the evidence standard, which is the standard of proof used in civil lawsuits.