Guiding Principles for Reporting & Privacy Concerns

Reporting

  1. Victims/survivors have the right to confidential support and to know what will happen with their information. Faculty and staff have a responsibility to inform victims/survivors about confidentiality limitations and options -  before victims/survivors choose to share - and to maintain the highest level of confidentiality possible given legislation and institutional policy. Learn More
  2. Identify the WHO, HOW, and WHEN of protecting victim/survivor confidentiality. Who can protect the confidentiality of victims/survivors? How will the institution protect their confidentiality? When might confidentiality be limited? Learn More
  3. Inform all students of their options for notifying the institution and/or reporting abuse to law enforcement. This should include anonymous options, and may increase the likelihood that students will disclose and/or report IPV. Learn More
  4. Seek input and collaboration from reporting students and their advocates. Work together to solicit and incorporate victims'/survivors' and advocates' input about the school's actions related to IPV prevention and response, with respect for the confidentiality of all parties involved.  Learn More

Reporting & Privacy Concerns In Real Life

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  • 1

View additional resources related to this topic

For more information specifically on sexual violence, visit the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Guiding Principles for Reporting & Privacy Concerns

#1 Victims/survivors have the right to confidential support and to know what will happen with their information. Faculty and staff have a responsibility to inform victims/survivors about confidentiality limitations and options -  before victims/survivors choose to share - and to maintain the highest level of confidentiality possible given legislation and institutional policy.

What's Required

Address Victim/Survivor Confidentiality and Privacy

Institutions must identify how the Institution will protect the confidentiality of victims/survivors, including how publicly-available record-keeping will be accomplished without the inclusion of identifying information about the victim/survivor, to the extent permissible by law.

Policies should address the following:

  • Need to Know - Clearly state that only individuals who have a need to know, or to whom the victim/survivor has provided information, will have access to information about the notification and/or police report and resulting investigation(s). Materials and information should be shared only as necessary with investigators, witnesses, and other relevant parties. If the victim/survivor wishes to withdraw consent to share information with a certain party, that request should be honored. 

    A more public disclosure of general information about a case may be made if it is determined that such disclosure is necessary due to serious and imminent threat to the community. In these events, the victim’s/survivor’s name and identifying information should not be included.
  • Serious and Imminent Threat - Explain that while any request made by a victim/survivor that a matter not be investigated should be taken into account, appropriate steps should be taken to respond to the matter in cases of serious and imminent threat to the community.
  • Confidential Resources - Inform victims/survivors of the confidential resources available to them both on campus and in the community. State that victims/survivors can seek assistance from off-campus crisis centers, which can maintain confidentiality. Include names of and contact information for these centers. It is highly recommended that institutions designate confidential resources for victims/survivors to increase the likelihood that they will choose to report law enforcement and/or notify the institution of an incident. Additionally, proactively training confidential resources in the institution’s policies is vital to their ability to help victims/survivors navigate the reporting and adjudication processes.
  • Non-confidential/Obligation to Report - Clearly state which types of staff and faculty members are not confidential resources and therefore have an obligation to inform campus authorities of any reports of IPV, stalking, or sexual violence. Provide clear links to campus reporting forms, and information on where staff and faculty can direct questions about their duty to report.

Inform Students of Reporting Options

Examples of information that must be shared with students regarding how to report abuse to law enforcement and/or notify the college/university:

  • Students’ options to notify the institution of IPV or other abuse, and what will happen after they report
  • Students’ options to file a report with law enforcement and what will happen after they report
  • Clear definitions of prohibited conduct in the policy so that students are able to identify their experiences as misconduct
  • A list of those to whom students can confidentially disclose their experience(s)
  • A list of which employees are not confidential, such as “responsible employees” and Campus Security Advisors. Learn more here: Outline Statistical Reporting Requirements and Confidentiality
  • A statement that encourages students to report any IPV, stalking, or sexual violence offenses, while clarifying that the victim/survivor has the right to decline to notify the Title IX office and to report to campus police (and the right to decline participation in a resulting investigation if someone else reports).

Various types of reports and notifications and the procedures for filing them:

  • Anonymous – A system that allows for victims/survivors and third-parties to notify the institution of incidents via an online or written form. It is helpful if these reports are sent to confidential employees so they can redact identifying information if necessary. Include a section where someone can request follow up without triggering a notification to police or school administration.

    An anonymous pathway for submitting paperwork to the institution encourages disclosures by students without risking exposure or being forced to file charges. Police cannot make an arrest based on an anonymous notification, but can still receive useful information regarding the types of assaults that are occurring at the institution.
  • Confidential – Disclosures made to employees who have no requirements to notify the institution -- with the ethical and legal exception of potential harm to self or others, or the abuse of a child or an elderly/vulnerable adult.
  • Formal – A notification to the institution which may result in an investigation through the student disciplinary process.
  • Non-confidential – Disclosures made to individuals who must share with the Title IX coordinator all known information, including the nature, date, time, and general location of the incident, and the identities of the victim(s)/survivor(s) and alleged perpetrator(s). If the reporting party requests confidentiality, the recipient of the disclosure must convey that request to the Title IX Coordinator; however, confidentiality is not promised or guaranteed.
  • Quasi-confidential (for meeting Clery reporting requirements) – Disclosures made in which the recipient must provide to the Title IX coordinator the following information: the nature, date, time, and general location of an incident, if known, but no information that would directly or indirectly identify the reporting party(ies) or victim(s)/survivor(s).
  • Third-party – The option, often anonymous, for witnesses or acquaintances of those involved in the incident to notify the institution of the abuse.

Designate Each Employee’s Reporting Status

Employees have certain responsibilities based on their positions, and institutions should designate and clearly outline those responsibilities.

Responsible Employees

(Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, see pg 27)

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) requires that certain employees on campus be deemed Responsible Employees.

A responsible employee includes any employee:

  • Who has the authority to take action to redress IPV, stalking, or sexual violence;
  • Who has been given the duty of notifying the Title IX Coordinator or other appropriate school designee (typically managers and supervisors) of incidents of IPV, stalking, sexual violence or any other misconduct involving students;
  • whom a student could reasonably believe has this authority or duty.

A school must make clear to all of its employees and students which staff members are responsible employees so that students can make informed decisions about whether to disclose information to those employees.

A school must also inform all employees of their own reporting responsibilities and the importance of informing the reporting party of:

  • The obligations of responsible employees to notify the institution;
  • Reporting parties’ option to request confidentiality and available confidential advocacy, counseling, or other support services;
  • Reporting parties’ right to file a Title IX complaint with the school and to report a crime to campus or local law enforcement.

When a responsible employee knows or reasonably should know of possible IPV, stalking, or sexual violence, OCR deems a school to have been put on notice of the violence. The school must take immediate and appropriate steps to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred (subject to the confidentiality provisions), and, if the school determines that the violence created a hostile environment, the school must then take appropriate steps to address the situation. (‘Addressing the situation’ can but does not necessarily mean adjudication of a specific incident.)

The US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights’ Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence 2014 Guidance is an excellent resource for understanding details around responsible employees.

Confidential* and Private Employees

(Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, see pg 28)

Confidential Employees - This includes those whose job responsibility it is to provide medical or mental-health counseling to members of the school community (and including those who act in that role under the supervision of a licensed counselor), including:

  • Medical professionals
  • Professional, licensed counselors
  • Pastoral/faith-based counselors

These people are not required or are legally unable to share any information about an incident of abuse with the Title IX coordinator without a victim’s/survivor’s permission. Those persons identified by their institution as Confidential Employees should clarify the extent of the requirements of their confidential status with their supervisor.


Private Employees - Campus Non-professional Counselors and Advocates: Individuals who work or volunteer in the on-campus sexual/relationship violence center, victim/survivor advocacy office, women’s center, health center etc., including front desk staff and students**, can generally talk to a victim/survivor without revealing any personally identifying information about an incident to the institution.

This, however, will depend on the institution’s designation of confidential versus private reporting sources, as well as potential state laws. A victim/survivor can disclose to and seek assistance from these individuals without activating an investigation that could reveal their identity.

Responsibility to file limited reports: These individuals do not have to release identifying information about a victim/survivor, but are mandated to report the nature, date, time and general location of an incident to the office responsible for collecting Clery (statistical) information about crimes on campus. This limited report includes NO information that would directly or indirectly identify the victim/survivor. It helps keep the university informed of the general extent and nature of gender-based violence on and off campus in order to track patterns, evaluate the scope of the problem, and formulate appropriate campus-wide responses. Before reporting any information to the Title IX Coordinator or Clery Compliance Officer, these individuals will advise the victim/survivor that the information will be reported but that no personally identifying details will be shared.


* There are always exceptions to confidentiality, particularly if there is risk of serious harm to self or others.

**Guidance from the Department of Education in April 2014 makes clear that on-campus counselors and advocates – like those who work or volunteer in sexual violence centers, victim/survivor advocacy offices, women’s and health centers, as well as licensed and pastoral counselors – can talk to a victim/survivor in confidence. In recent years, some schools have indicated that some of these counselors and advocates cannot maintain confidentiality. This new guidance clarifies that they can.

Outline Statistical Reporting Requirements and Confidentiality

Colleges and universities are required to maintain a good faith effort to collect and report statistics for IPV and stalking occurring on-campus, on public property within and adjacent to campus, and at non-campus properties like off-campus student organization housing and remote classrooms. Institutions were already required to report sexual violence statistics (forcible and non-forcible sex offenses, i.e. incest and statutory rape), as defined by the Violence Against Women Act.

Institutions must collect statistics from a broad range of campus officials, identified as Campus Security Authorities (CSA). The Clery Act defines a CSA as:

  • A campus police department or a campus security department of an institution.
  • Any individual or individuals who have responsibility for campus security but who do not constitute a campus police department or a campus security department, such as an individual who is responsible for monitoring entrance into institutional property.
  • Any individual or organization specified in an institution's statement of campus security policy as an individual or organization to which students and employees should report criminal offenses.
  • An official of an institution who has significant responsibility for student and campus activities, including, but not limited to, student housing, student discipline, and campus judicial proceedings. If such an official is a pastoral or professional counselor as defined below, the official is not considered a CSA when acting as a pastoral or professional counselor.

A Note on the Reporting Responsibilities of Pastoral and Professional Counselors - from Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence:

“The exemption from reporting obligations for pastoral and professional counselors under Title IX is consistent with the Clery Act. For additional information on reporting obligations under the Clery Act, see Office of Postsecondary Education, Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting (2011), available at http://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/handbook.pdf.

Similar to the Clery Act, for Title IX purposes, a pastoral counselor is a person who is associated with a religious order or denomination, is recognized by that religious order or denomination as someone who provides confidential counseling, and is functioning within the scope of that recognition as a pastoral counselor.

A professional counselor is a person whose official responsibilities include providing mental health counseling to members of the institution’s community and who is functioning within the scope of his or her license or certification. This definition applies even to professional counselors who are not employees of the school, but are under contract to provide counseling at the school. This includes individuals who are not yet licensed or certified as a counselor, but are acting in that role under the supervision of an individual who is licensed or certified. An example is a Ph.D. counselor-trainee acting under the supervision of a professional counselor at the school.

Postsecondary institutions should be aware that an individual who is counseling students, but who does not meet the Clery Act definition of a pastoral or professional counselor, is not exempt from being a campus security authority if he or she otherwise has significant responsibility for student and campus activities.”

Examples of individuals who meet the criteria  for CSA are:

  • A dean of students who oversees student housing, a student center, or student extracurricular activities.
  • A director of athletics, a team coach, or a faculty advisor to a student group.
  • A student resident advisor or assistant or a student who monitors access to dormitories.
  • A coordinator of Greek affairs.
  • A physician in a campus health center
  • A counselor in a campus counseling center or a victim/survivor advocate or sexual violence response team in a campus rape crisis center.

If these individuals are not identified as people to whom crimes should be reported or do not have significant responsibility for student and campus activities, they would not be considered CSAs. They would only qualify as a CSA if they are identified by your school as someone to whom crimes should be reported or if they have significant responsibility for student and campus activities.

Examples of individuals who would not meet the criteria for being CSAs include:

  • A faculty member who does not have any responsibility for student and campus activity beyond the classroom.
  • Clerical or cafeteria staff.

In addition, the law does not limit an institution from more broadly identifying who are CSAs for each college/university in order to obtain a more comprehensive representation of crime on campus. The law requires shielding personally identifying information of victims/survivors in order to protect the confidentiality of victims/survivors in these statistical disclosures. The law also requires shielding personally identifying information in record keeping (such as records stored in locked, non-moveable file cabinets) to the extent provided by law. (See details about confidentiality distinctions on page 27 of The NCCADV Guidance and Model Policy Documents.

What's Recommended

Develop Comprehensive Reporting Procedures

Develop clearly worded and widely available reporting procedures that address:

  • All genders and sexual orientations - Provide a very clear and visible statement that disclosures and reports of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence are encouraged and will be taken seriously and respectfully for all persons regardless of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
  • Preservation of Evidence - Address the importance of preserving evidence that may be needed to prove that an act of IPV, stalking, or sexual misconduct has occurred. State the fact that collecting evidence does not require a victim/survivor to notify the school or to press charges, but may simply assist investigators should the victim/survivor decide to file a formal report of the offense at a later point.
  • Option to Notify the Institution - Clearly state who should be notified of an alleged offense if the victim/survivor so chooses. Notification to the school may result in accommodations such as changes in class schedule, housing arrangements, etc. Such a notification may also result in campus law enforcement notification.
  • Confidential Resources - Outline campus-specific, confidential options for victims/survivors.
  • Reports to Law Enforcement - Provide information for victims/survivors about their options to report to law enforcement and other campus authorities, including their options to:
    • Notify the proper law enforcement, including on-campus and local police.
    • Be assisted by campus administrators in notifying law enforcement.
    • Decline to notify law enforcement.
  • Timely Warnings - Develop a primary prevention-based Timely Warning. If possible, and the victim/survivor desires to, they should assist law enforcement (or whoever develops the warnings for the institution) in determining the language for the warning. Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, page 89.
  • Orders of Protection/Restraining Orders - Outline the victim’s/survivor’s rights and processes for obtaining, as well as the institution’s specific responsibilities, regarding:
    • Criminal orders of protection,
    • Institution-issued no-contact orders,
    • Civil restraining orders, or
    • Similar lawful orders issued by a criminal, civil, or tribal court.
  • Anonymous Options - Clearly state procedures by which a student can anonymously notify the school of abuse. Anonymous disclosures do not typically result in the initiation of a formal disciplinary proceeding, although the Institution is responsible for investigating all notifications of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence to ensure safety in the community. Anonymous notifications will result in data collection for the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crimes Statistics Act and may be significant in identifying patterns or systemic issues.
  • MOUs with Local Entities - Schools should establish a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between campus police and local law enforcement to ensure that protection orders are fully enforced on campus and off. Schools should also establish MOUs with community-based domestic violence and rape crisis service providers to ensure IPV, stalking, and sexual violence victims/survivors receive the support they desire.
  • Hearing Panels - It is recommended that all institutions work with a single investigator model, and not a full hearing board, when addressing cases of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence. If your institution does not yet have the capacity to use this model, and a hearing board system is currently in place, it is strongly recommended that the following be taken into consideration:
    • OCR discourages schools from allowing students to serve on hearing boards.
    • Hearing boards should never serve as an investigative body, but rather only as a determinative body.
    • Hearing boards can be a part of the process in determining a finding, or as a second review from an investigation recommendation, or as a sanctioning or appeal body.
    • The Title IX Coordinator or a designee with significant experience investigating IPV, stalking, and/or sexual violence cases should be part of the investigative process.
    • It is recommended that the Title IX Coordinator or designee observe the hearing and the hearing board’s deliberations. In this scenario, the Title IX Coordinator does not participate as a decision-maker, but is present as a resource to the board to advise the board on Title IX compliance within the hearing process.
  • Extensively Trained Investigators and Adjudicators - Schools should ensure that investigators and adjudicators are thoroughly trained in the dynamics of sexual misconduct and abusive relationships. These types of abuse can cause emotional and behavioral responses in victim/survivors that are often counter-intuitive and difficult to comprehend for those who have not had extensive training in trauma response. Investigator and adjudicator training should include training on the types of abuse and the varying tactics perpetrators use to control and manipulate victims/survivors (often without physical or sexual violence), as well as the impact of abuse, including the barriers that prevent victims/survivors from leaving an abusive partner.

    Further suggested training topics include:
    • The psychological consequences of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence on victims/survivors
    • The dangers of leaving an abusive relationship
    • The spectrum of violence including emotional, psychological, physical and sexual violence
    • Outward signs/indicators of abuse (“Red flags”)
    • Common neurobiological responses of a trauma victim/survivor
    • Trauma-sensitive interviewing techniques
    • Appropriate accommodations for survivors involved in a hearing process
    • Legal and campus guidelines for investigation and adjudication
  • Victims’/Survivors’ Experiences as Evidence - Schools should not permit responding parties to introduce personal details about victims’/survivors’:
    • Mental health in disciplinary proceedings, unless issue related to their mental health goes towards proving or disproving an essential element of the case.
    • Sexual history unless determined to be directly relevant to the situation in question. Those designated to investigate and hear these cases will receive training that explains that the mere fact of a previous consensual sexual relationship does not itself imply consent or preclude a finding of sexual violence. The sexual behavior of the reporting party is irrelevant to any issue in the disciplinary process unless such behavior:
      • Is evidence of specific instances of sexual behavior offered for the purpose of showing that the act or acts charged were not committed by the responding party; or
      • Is evidence of a pattern of sexual behavior so distinctive and so closely resembling the responding party's version of the alleged encounter with the reporting party as to tend to prove that such reporting party consented to the act or acts charged or behaved in such a manner as to lead the responding party reasonably to believe that the reporting party consented; or
      • Is evidence of sexual behavior offered as the basis of expert psychological or psychiatric opinion that the reporting party fantasized or invented the act or acts charged.
  • Standard Expulsion Policy - Schools should implement a standard (not mandatory) expulsion policy. Many victims/survivors of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence feel reluctant to report the alleged perpetrator out of concern that someone they love or loved will be automatically or unconditionally expelled. Sometimes that reluctance changes as a victim/survivor meets other victims/survivors of the same alleged perpetrator, or as they progress through the reporting process. Regardless, it is critical that schools preserve victims’/survivors’ control over the process, and take care not to dissuade them from reporting by instituting a mandatory expulsion policy. Special attention should be paid to victim/survivor safety, however, if a perpetrator is found responsible for IPV or sexual misconduct and is not expelled (is allowed to remain on campus).
  • Protection Orders and Hearings - Schools should not penalize victims/survivors who have obtained civil protection orders (which often include distance requirements) by keeping them out of a disciplinary hearing room if they wish to be present in person. If a protection order is in effect, schools should ensure that the burden of complying with that order falls squarely on the responding party, who can then participate by having a partition during the hearing or through video software such as a closed-circuit camera.

#2 Identify the WHO, HOW, and WHEN of protecting victim/survivor confidentiality. Who can protect the confidentiality of victims/survivors? How will the institution protect their confidentiality? When might confidentiality be limited?

What's Required

Address Victim/Survivor Confidentiality and Privacy

Institutions must identify how the Institution will protect the confidentiality of victims/survivors, including how publicly-available record-keeping will be accomplished without the inclusion of identifying information about the victim/survivor, to the extent permissible by law.

Policies should address the following:

  • Need to Know - Clearly state that only individuals who have a need to know, or to whom the victim/survivor has provided information, will have access to information about the notification and/or police report and resulting investigation(s). Materials and information should be shared only as necessary with investigators, witnesses, and other relevant parties. If the victim/survivor wishes to withdraw consent to share information with a certain party, that request should be honored. 

    A more public disclosure of general information about a case may be made if it is determined that such disclosure is necessary due to serious and imminent threat to the community. In these events, the victim’s/survivor’s name and identifying information should not be included.
  • Serious and Imminent Threat - Explain that while any request made by a victim/survivor that a matter not be investigated should be taken into account, appropriate steps should be taken to respond to the matter in cases of serious and imminent threat to the community.
  • Confidential Resources - Inform victims/survivors of the confidential resources available to them both on campus and in the community. State that victims/survivors can seek assistance from off-campus crisis centers, which can maintain confidentiality. Include names of and contact information for these centers. It is highly recommended that institutions designate confidential resources for victims/survivors to increase the likelihood that they will choose to report law enforcement and/or notify the institution of an incident. Additionally, proactively training confidential resources in the institution’s policies is vital to their ability to help victims/survivors navigate the reporting and adjudication processes.
  • Non-confidential/Obligation to Report - Clearly state which types of staff and faculty members are not confidential resources and therefore have an obligation to inform campus authorities of any reports of IPV, stalking, or sexual violence. Provide clear links to campus reporting forms, and information on where staff and faculty can direct questions about their duty to report.

Inform Students of Reporting Options

Examples of information that must be shared with students regarding how to report abuse to law enforcement and/or notify the college/university:

  • Students’ options to notify the institution of IPV or other abuse, and what will happen after they report
  • Students’ options to file a report with law enforcement and what will happen after they report
  • Clear definitions of prohibited conduct in the policy so that students are able to identify their experiences as misconduct
  • A list of those to whom students can confidentially disclose their experience(s)
  • A list of which employees are not confidential, such as “responsible employees” and Campus Security Advisors. Learn more here: Outline Statistical Reporting Requirements and Confidentiality
  • A statement that encourages students to report any IPV, stalking, or sexual violence offenses, while clarifying that the victim/survivor has the right to decline to notify the Title IX office and to report to campus police (and the right to decline participation in a resulting investigation if someone else reports).

Various types of reports and notifications and the procedures for filing them:

  • Anonymous – A system that allows for victims/survivors and third-parties to notify the institution of incidents via an online or written form. It is helpful if these reports are sent to confidential employees so they can redact identifying information if necessary. Include a section where someone can request follow up without triggering a notification to police or school administration.

    An anonymous pathway for submitting paperwork to the institution encourages disclosures by students without risking exposure or being forced to file charges. Police cannot make an arrest based on an anonymous notification, but can still receive useful information regarding the types of assaults that are occurring at the institution.
  • Confidential – Disclosures made to employees who have no requirements to notify the institution -- with the ethical and legal exception of potential harm to self or others, or the abuse of a child or an elderly/vulnerable adult.
  • Formal – A notification to the institution which may result in an investigation through the student disciplinary process.
  • Non-confidential – Disclosures made to individuals who must share with the Title IX coordinator all known information, including the nature, date, time, and general location of the incident, and the identities of the victim(s)/survivor(s) and alleged perpetrator(s). If the reporting party requests confidentiality, the recipient of the disclosure must convey that request to the Title IX Coordinator; however, confidentiality is not promised or guaranteed.
  • Quasi-confidential (for meeting Clery reporting requirements) – Disclosures made in which the recipient must provide to the Title IX coordinator the following information: the nature, date, time, and general location of an incident, if known, but no information that would directly or indirectly identify the reporting party(ies) or victim(s)/survivor(s).
  • Third-party – The option, often anonymous, for witnesses or acquaintances of those involved in the incident to notify the institution of the abuse.

Designate Each Employee’s Reporting Status

Employees have certain responsibilities based on their positions, and institutions should designate and clearly outline those responsibilities.

Responsible Employees

(Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, see pg 27)

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) requires that certain employees on campus be deemed Responsible Employees.

A responsible employee includes any employee:

  • Who has the authority to take action to redress IPV, stalking, or sexual violence;
  • Who has been given the duty of notifying the Title IX Coordinator or other appropriate school designee (typically managers and supervisors) of incidents of IPV, stalking, sexual violence or any other misconduct involving students;
  • whom a student could reasonably believe has this authority or duty.

A school must make clear to all of its employees and students which staff members are responsible employees so that students can make informed decisions about whether to disclose information to those employees.

A school must also inform all employees of their own reporting responsibilities and the importance of informing the reporting party of:

  • The obligations of responsible employees to notify the institution;
  • Reporting parties’ option to request confidentiality and available confidential advocacy, counseling, or other support services;
  • Reporting parties’ right to file a Title IX complaint with the school and to report a crime to campus or local law enforcement.

When a responsible employee knows or reasonably should know of possible IPV, stalking, or sexual violence, OCR deems a school to have been put on notice of the violence. The school must take immediate and appropriate steps to investigate or otherwise determine what occurred (subject to the confidentiality provisions), and, if the school determines that the violence created a hostile environment, the school must then take appropriate steps to address the situation. (‘Addressing the situation’ can but does not necessarily mean adjudication of a specific incident.)

The US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights’ Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence 2014 Guidance is an excellent resource for understanding details around responsible employees.

Confidential* and Private Employees

(Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, see pg 28)

Confidential Employees - This includes those whose job responsibility it is to provide medical or mental-health counseling to members of the school community (and including those who act in that role under the supervision of a licensed counselor), including:

  • Medical professionals
  • Professional, licensed counselors
  • Pastoral/faith-based counselors

These people are not required or are legally unable to share any information about an incident of abuse with the Title IX coordinator without a victim’s/survivor’s permission. Those persons identified by their institution as Confidential Employees should clarify the extent of the requirements of their confidential status with their supervisor.


Private Employees - Campus Non-professional Counselors and Advocates: Individuals who work or volunteer in the on-campus sexual/relationship violence center, victim/survivor advocacy office, women’s center, health center etc., including front desk staff and students**, can generally talk to a victim/survivor without revealing any personally identifying information about an incident to the institution.

This, however, will depend on the institution’s designation of confidential versus private reporting sources, as well as potential state laws. A victim/survivor can disclose to and seek assistance from these individuals without activating an investigation that could reveal their identity.

Responsibility to file limited reports: These individuals do not have to release identifying information about a victim/survivor, but are mandated to report the nature, date, time and general location of an incident to the office responsible for collecting Clery (statistical) information about crimes on campus. This limited report includes NO information that would directly or indirectly identify the victim/survivor. It helps keep the university informed of the general extent and nature of gender-based violence on and off campus in order to track patterns, evaluate the scope of the problem, and formulate appropriate campus-wide responses. Before reporting any information to the Title IX Coordinator or Clery Compliance Officer, these individuals will advise the victim/survivor that the information will be reported but that no personally identifying details will be shared.


* There are always exceptions to confidentiality, particularly if there is risk of serious harm to self or others.

**Guidance from the Department of Education in April 2014 makes clear that on-campus counselors and advocates – like those who work or volunteer in sexual violence centers, victim/survivor advocacy offices, women’s and health centers, as well as licensed and pastoral counselors – can talk to a victim/survivor in confidence. In recent years, some schools have indicated that some of these counselors and advocates cannot maintain confidentiality. This new guidance clarifies that they can.

Outline Statistical Reporting Requirements and Confidentiality

Colleges and universities are required to maintain a good faith effort to collect and report statistics for IPV and stalking occurring on-campus, on public property within and adjacent to campus, and at non-campus properties like off-campus student organization housing and remote classrooms. Institutions were already required to report sexual violence statistics (forcible and non-forcible sex offenses, i.e. incest and statutory rape), as defined by the Violence Against Women Act.

Institutions must collect statistics from a broad range of campus officials, identified as Campus Security Authorities (CSA). The Clery Act defines a CSA as:

  • A campus police department or a campus security department of an institution.
  • Any individual or individuals who have responsibility for campus security but who do not constitute a campus police department or a campus security department, such as an individual who is responsible for monitoring entrance into institutional property.
  • Any individual or organization specified in an institution's statement of campus security policy as an individual or organization to which students and employees should report criminal offenses.
  • An official of an institution who has significant responsibility for student and campus activities, including, but not limited to, student housing, student discipline, and campus judicial proceedings. If such an official is a pastoral or professional counselor as defined below, the official is not considered a CSA when acting as a pastoral or professional counselor.

A Note on the Reporting Responsibilities of Pastoral and Professional Counselors - from Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence:

“The exemption from reporting obligations for pastoral and professional counselors under Title IX is consistent with the Clery Act. For additional information on reporting obligations under the Clery Act, see Office of Postsecondary Education, Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting (2011), available at http://www2.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/handbook.pdf.

Similar to the Clery Act, for Title IX purposes, a pastoral counselor is a person who is associated with a religious order or denomination, is recognized by that religious order or denomination as someone who provides confidential counseling, and is functioning within the scope of that recognition as a pastoral counselor.

A professional counselor is a person whose official responsibilities include providing mental health counseling to members of the institution’s community and who is functioning within the scope of his or her license or certification. This definition applies even to professional counselors who are not employees of the school, but are under contract to provide counseling at the school. This includes individuals who are not yet licensed or certified as a counselor, but are acting in that role under the supervision of an individual who is licensed or certified. An example is a Ph.D. counselor-trainee acting under the supervision of a professional counselor at the school.

Postsecondary institutions should be aware that an individual who is counseling students, but who does not meet the Clery Act definition of a pastoral or professional counselor, is not exempt from being a campus security authority if he or she otherwise has significant responsibility for student and campus activities.”

Examples of individuals who meet the criteria  for CSA are:

  • A dean of students who oversees student housing, a student center, or student extracurricular activities.
  • A director of athletics, a team coach, or a faculty advisor to a student group.
  • A student resident advisor or assistant or a student who monitors access to dormitories.
  • A coordinator of Greek affairs.
  • A physician in a campus health center
  • A counselor in a campus counseling center or a victim/survivor advocate or sexual violence response team in a campus rape crisis center.

If these individuals are not identified as people to whom crimes should be reported or do not have significant responsibility for student and campus activities, they would not be considered CSAs. They would only qualify as a CSA if they are identified by your school as someone to whom crimes should be reported or if they have significant responsibility for student and campus activities.

Examples of individuals who would not meet the criteria for being CSAs include:

  • A faculty member who does not have any responsibility for student and campus activity beyond the classroom.
  • Clerical or cafeteria staff.

In addition, the law does not limit an institution from more broadly identifying who are CSAs for each college/university in order to obtain a more comprehensive representation of crime on campus. The law requires shielding personally identifying information of victims/survivors in order to protect the confidentiality of victims/survivors in these statistical disclosures. The law also requires shielding personally identifying information in record keeping (such as records stored in locked, non-moveable file cabinets) to the extent provided by law. (See details about confidentiality distinctions on page 27 of The NCCADV Guidance and Model Policy Documents.

What's Recommended

Develop Comprehensive Reporting Procedures

Develop clearly worded and widely available reporting procedures that address:

  • All genders and sexual orientations - Provide a very clear and visible statement that disclosures and reports of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence are encouraged and will be taken seriously and respectfully for all persons regardless of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
  • Preservation of Evidence - Address the importance of preserving evidence that may be needed to prove that an act of IPV, stalking, or sexual misconduct has occurred. State the fact that collecting evidence does not require a victim/survivor to notify the school or to press charges, but may simply assist investigators should the victim/survivor decide to file a formal report of the offense at a later point.
  • Option to Notify the Institution - Clearly state who should be notified of an alleged offense if the victim/survivor so chooses. Notification to the school may result in accommodations such as changes in class schedule, housing arrangements, etc. Such a notification may also result in campus law enforcement notification.
  • Confidential Resources - Outline campus-specific, confidential options for victims/survivors.
  • Reports to Law Enforcement - Provide information for victims/survivors about their options to report to law enforcement and other campus authorities, including their options to:
    • Notify the proper law enforcement, including on-campus and local police.
    • Be assisted by campus administrators in notifying law enforcement.
    • Decline to notify law enforcement.
  • Timely Warnings - Develop a primary prevention-based Timely Warning. If possible, and the victim/survivor desires to, they should assist law enforcement (or whoever develops the warnings for the institution) in determining the language for the warning. Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, page 89.
  • Orders of Protection/Restraining Orders - Outline the victim’s/survivor’s rights and processes for obtaining, as well as the institution’s specific responsibilities, regarding:
    • Criminal orders of protection,
    • Institution-issued no-contact orders,
    • Civil restraining orders, or
    • Similar lawful orders issued by a criminal, civil, or tribal court.
  • Anonymous Options - Clearly state procedures by which a student can anonymously notify the school of abuse. Anonymous disclosures do not typically result in the initiation of a formal disciplinary proceeding, although the Institution is responsible for investigating all notifications of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence to ensure safety in the community. Anonymous notifications will result in data collection for the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crimes Statistics Act and may be significant in identifying patterns or systemic issues.
  • MOUs with Local Entities - Schools should establish a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between campus police and local law enforcement to ensure that protection orders are fully enforced on campus and off. Schools should also establish MOUs with community-based domestic violence and rape crisis service providers to ensure IPV, stalking, and sexual violence victims/survivors receive the support they desire.
  • Hearing Panels - It is recommended that all institutions work with a single investigator model, and not a full hearing board, when addressing cases of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence. If your institution does not yet have the capacity to use this model, and a hearing board system is currently in place, it is strongly recommended that the following be taken into consideration:
    • OCR discourages schools from allowing students to serve on hearing boards.
    • Hearing boards should never serve as an investigative body, but rather only as a determinative body.
    • Hearing boards can be a part of the process in determining a finding, or as a second review from an investigation recommendation, or as a sanctioning or appeal body.
    • The Title IX Coordinator or a designee with significant experience investigating IPV, stalking, and/or sexual violence cases should be part of the investigative process.
    • It is recommended that the Title IX Coordinator or designee observe the hearing and the hearing board’s deliberations. In this scenario, the Title IX Coordinator does not participate as a decision-maker, but is present as a resource to the board to advise the board on Title IX compliance within the hearing process.
  • Extensively Trained Investigators and Adjudicators - Schools should ensure that investigators and adjudicators are thoroughly trained in the dynamics of sexual misconduct and abusive relationships. These types of abuse can cause emotional and behavioral responses in victim/survivors that are often counter-intuitive and difficult to comprehend for those who have not had extensive training in trauma response. Investigator and adjudicator training should include training on the types of abuse and the varying tactics perpetrators use to control and manipulate victims/survivors (often without physical or sexual violence), as well as the impact of abuse, including the barriers that prevent victims/survivors from leaving an abusive partner.

    Further suggested training topics include:
    • The psychological consequences of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence on victims/survivors
    • The dangers of leaving an abusive relationship
    • The spectrum of violence including emotional, psychological, physical and sexual violence
    • Outward signs/indicators of abuse (“Red flags”)
    • Common neurobiological responses of a trauma victim/survivor
    • Trauma-sensitive interviewing techniques
    • Appropriate accommodations for survivors involved in a hearing process
    • Legal and campus guidelines for investigation and adjudication
  • Victims’/Survivors’ Experiences as Evidence - Schools should not permit responding parties to introduce personal details about victims’/survivors’:
    • Mental health in disciplinary proceedings, unless issue related to their mental health goes towards proving or disproving an essential element of the case.
    • Sexual history unless determined to be directly relevant to the situation in question. Those designated to investigate and hear these cases will receive training that explains that the mere fact of a previous consensual sexual relationship does not itself imply consent or preclude a finding of sexual violence. The sexual behavior of the reporting party is irrelevant to any issue in the disciplinary process unless such behavior:
      • Is evidence of specific instances of sexual behavior offered for the purpose of showing that the act or acts charged were not committed by the responding party; or
      • Is evidence of a pattern of sexual behavior so distinctive and so closely resembling the responding party's version of the alleged encounter with the reporting party as to tend to prove that such reporting party consented to the act or acts charged or behaved in such a manner as to lead the responding party reasonably to believe that the reporting party consented; or
      • Is evidence of sexual behavior offered as the basis of expert psychological or psychiatric opinion that the reporting party fantasized or invented the act or acts charged.
  • Standard Expulsion Policy - Schools should implement a standard (not mandatory) expulsion policy. Many victims/survivors of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence feel reluctant to report the alleged perpetrator out of concern that someone they love or loved will be automatically or unconditionally expelled. Sometimes that reluctance changes as a victim/survivor meets other victims/survivors of the same alleged perpetrator, or as they progress through the reporting process. Regardless, it is critical that schools preserve victims’/survivors’ control over the process, and take care not to dissuade them from reporting by instituting a mandatory expulsion policy. Special attention should be paid to victim/survivor safety, however, if a perpetrator is found responsible for IPV or sexual misconduct and is not expelled (is allowed to remain on campus).
  • Protection Orders and Hearings - Schools should not penalize victims/survivors who have obtained civil protection orders (which often include distance requirements) by keeping them out of a disciplinary hearing room if they wish to be present in person. If a protection order is in effect, schools should ensure that the burden of complying with that order falls squarely on the responding party, who can then participate by having a partition during the hearing or through video software such as a closed-circuit camera.

Increase Safety for Students Who Report

No-Contact Orders

(Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, page 33).

Schools should:

  • Offer and enforce unilateral, campus-based no-contact orders when both the reporting and responding parties are students enrolled at the institution (or between a student and a current staff/faculty member).
  • Offer and enforce campus-based no-contact orders regardless of whether victims/survivors have obtained court-issued protection orders.
  • Explicitly state the consequences for breaking a no-contact order (and, if there are none, schools should make this clear so that victims/survivors can seek other protective measures).

No-contact orders should:

  • Be unilateral, not bilateral. For additional information on unilateral versus bilateral no-contact orders, visit page 5 of this article from the Victim Rights Law Center.
  • Be in writing- not just a verbal agreement between parties. The NCO should explain the difference between incidental and intentional contact, both in writing and verbally, to the involved parties.
  • Prohibit the alleged perpetrator from any form of contact with the student requesting the order: in person, via technology, or through a third-party (e.g., mutual friends).
  • Delineate specific guidance around the students’ timing and use of common areas of campus, such as the recreation center, library, and dining facilities.
  • Also be available to students who request them against a faculty or staff member.

Amnesty Policy

(Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, page 17).

Institutions should strive to create safe and comfortable spaces for victims/survivors who choose to notify school administrators of abuse. Sometimes, victims/survivors and witnesses are hesitant to disclose to university officials because they fear that they themselves may be accused of policy violations, such as drug use or underage drinking at the time of the incident. An amnesty policy offers victims/survivors and witnesses amnesty whenever possible from other policy violations related to the incident. Sometimes policy violations cannot be overlooked, so it is therefore recommended that institutions provide educational options, rather than punishment, for victims/survivors who have violated a school policy.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) suggests that “schools should consider whether their disciplinary policies have a chilling effect on victims’/survivors’ or other students’ reporting of sexual violence offenses” (Russlyn, 2011). The OCR provides the example that “schools inform students that the school’s primary concern is student safety, that any other rules violations will be addressed separately from the sexual violence allegation, and that use of alcohol or drugs never makes the victim at fault for sexual violence” (Russlyn, 2011).

Responsible Action (“Good Samaritan”) Policy

(Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, page 17).

Sometimes, students are hesitant to offer assistance to others for fear that they may get in trouble. Students might be afraid to intervene or call the police for someone who is being threatened, or to call EMS or police when someone has been injured or has alcohol poisoning. A Responsible Action policy can offer limited immunity for students who offer help to others in need. Sometimes policy violations cannot be overlooked, so it is therefore recommended that institutions provide educational options, rather than punishment, for victims/survivors who have violated a school policy.

#3 Inform all students of their options for notifying the institution and/or reporting abuse to law enforcement. This should include anonymous options, and may increase the likelihood that students will disclose and/or report IPV.

What's Required

Address Victim/Survivor Confidentiality and Privacy

Institutions must identify how the Institution will protect the confidentiality of victims/survivors, including how publicly-available record-keeping will be accomplished without the inclusion of identifying information about the victim/survivor, to the extent permissible by law.

Policies should address the following:

  • Need to Know - Clearly state that only individuals who have a need to know, or to whom the victim/survivor has provided information, will have access to information about the notification and/or police report and resulting investigation(s). Materials and information should be shared only as necessary with investigators, witnesses, and other relevant parties. If the victim/survivor wishes to withdraw consent to share information with a certain party, that request should be honored. 

    A more public disclosure of general information about a case may be made if it is determined that such disclosure is necessary due to serious and imminent threat to the community. In these events, the victim’s/survivor’s name and identifying information should not be included.
  • Serious and Imminent Threat - Explain that while any request made by a victim/survivor that a matter not be investigated should be taken into account, appropriate steps should be taken to respond to the matter in cases of serious and imminent threat to the community.
  • Confidential Resources - Inform victims/survivors of the confidential resources available to them both on campus and in the community. State that victims/survivors can seek assistance from off-campus crisis centers, which can maintain confidentiality. Include names of and contact information for these centers. It is highly recommended that institutions designate confidential resources for victims/survivors to increase the likelihood that they will choose to report law enforcement and/or notify the institution of an incident. Additionally, proactively training confidential resources in the institution’s policies is vital to their ability to help victims/survivors navigate the reporting and adjudication processes.
  • Non-confidential/Obligation to Report - Clearly state which types of staff and faculty members are not confidential resources and therefore have an obligation to inform campus authorities of any reports of IPV, stalking, or sexual violence. Provide clear links to campus reporting forms, and information on where staff and faculty can direct questions about their duty to report.

Inform Students of Reporting Options

Examples of information that must be shared with students regarding how to report abuse to law enforcement and/or notify the college/university:

  • Students’ options to notify the institution of IPV or other abuse, and what will happen after they report
  • Students’ options to file a report with law enforcement and what will happen after they report
  • Clear definitions of prohibited conduct in the policy so that students are able to identify their experiences as misconduct
  • A list of those to whom students can confidentially disclose their experience(s)
  • A list of which employees are not confidential, such as “responsible employees” and Campus Security Advisors. Learn more here: Outline Statistical Reporting Requirements and Confidentiality
  • A statement that encourages students to report any IPV, stalking, or sexual violence offenses, while clarifying that the victim/survivor has the right to decline to notify the Title IX office and to report to campus police (and the right to decline participation in a resulting investigation if someone else reports).

Various types of reports and notifications and the procedures for filing them:

  • Anonymous – A system that allows for victims/survivors and third-parties to notify the institution of incidents via an online or written form. It is helpful if these reports are sent to confidential employees so they can redact identifying information if necessary. Include a section where someone can request follow up without triggering a notification to police or school administration.

    An anonymous pathway for submitting paperwork to the institution encourages disclosures by students without risking exposure or being forced to file charges. Police cannot make an arrest based on an anonymous notification, but can still receive useful information regarding the types of assaults that are occurring at the institution.
  • Confidential – Disclosures made to employees who have no requirements to notify the institution -- with the ethical and legal exception of potential harm to self or others, or the abuse of a child or an elderly/vulnerable adult.
  • Formal – A notification to the institution which may result in an investigation through the student disciplinary process.
  • Non-confidential – Disclosures made to individuals who must share with the Title IX coordinator all known information, including the nature, date, time, and general location of the incident, and the identities of the victim(s)/survivor(s) and alleged perpetrator(s). If the reporting party requests confidentiality, the recipient of the disclosure must convey that request to the Title IX Coordinator; however, confidentiality is not promised or guaranteed.
  • Quasi-confidential (for meeting Clery reporting requirements) – Disclosures made in which the recipient must provide to the Title IX coordinator the following information: the nature, date, time, and general location of an incident, if known, but no information that would directly or indirectly identify the reporting party(ies) or victim(s)/survivor(s).
  • Third-party – The option, often anonymous, for witnesses or acquaintances of those involved in the incident to notify the institution of the abuse.

What's Recommended

Develop Comprehensive Reporting Procedures

Develop clearly worded and widely available reporting procedures that address:

  • All genders and sexual orientations - Provide a very clear and visible statement that disclosures and reports of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence are encouraged and will be taken seriously and respectfully for all persons regardless of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
  • Preservation of Evidence - Address the importance of preserving evidence that may be needed to prove that an act of IPV, stalking, or sexual misconduct has occurred. State the fact that collecting evidence does not require a victim/survivor to notify the school or to press charges, but may simply assist investigators should the victim/survivor decide to file a formal report of the offense at a later point.
  • Option to Notify the Institution - Clearly state who should be notified of an alleged offense if the victim/survivor so chooses. Notification to the school may result in accommodations such as changes in class schedule, housing arrangements, etc. Such a notification may also result in campus law enforcement notification.
  • Confidential Resources - Outline campus-specific, confidential options for victims/survivors.
  • Reports to Law Enforcement - Provide information for victims/survivors about their options to report to law enforcement and other campus authorities, including their options to:
    • Notify the proper law enforcement, including on-campus and local police.
    • Be assisted by campus administrators in notifying law enforcement.
    • Decline to notify law enforcement.
  • Timely Warnings - Develop a primary prevention-based Timely Warning. If possible, and the victim/survivor desires to, they should assist law enforcement (or whoever develops the warnings for the institution) in determining the language for the warning. Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, page 89.
  • Orders of Protection/Restraining Orders - Outline the victim’s/survivor’s rights and processes for obtaining, as well as the institution’s specific responsibilities, regarding:
    • Criminal orders of protection,
    • Institution-issued no-contact orders,
    • Civil restraining orders, or
    • Similar lawful orders issued by a criminal, civil, or tribal court.
  • Anonymous Options - Clearly state procedures by which a student can anonymously notify the school of abuse. Anonymous disclosures do not typically result in the initiation of a formal disciplinary proceeding, although the Institution is responsible for investigating all notifications of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence to ensure safety in the community. Anonymous notifications will result in data collection for the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crimes Statistics Act and may be significant in identifying patterns or systemic issues.
  • MOUs with Local Entities - Schools should establish a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between campus police and local law enforcement to ensure that protection orders are fully enforced on campus and off. Schools should also establish MOUs with community-based domestic violence and rape crisis service providers to ensure IPV, stalking, and sexual violence victims/survivors receive the support they desire.
  • Hearing Panels - It is recommended that all institutions work with a single investigator model, and not a full hearing board, when addressing cases of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence. If your institution does not yet have the capacity to use this model, and a hearing board system is currently in place, it is strongly recommended that the following be taken into consideration:
    • OCR discourages schools from allowing students to serve on hearing boards.
    • Hearing boards should never serve as an investigative body, but rather only as a determinative body.
    • Hearing boards can be a part of the process in determining a finding, or as a second review from an investigation recommendation, or as a sanctioning or appeal body.
    • The Title IX Coordinator or a designee with significant experience investigating IPV, stalking, and/or sexual violence cases should be part of the investigative process.
    • It is recommended that the Title IX Coordinator or designee observe the hearing and the hearing board’s deliberations. In this scenario, the Title IX Coordinator does not participate as a decision-maker, but is present as a resource to the board to advise the board on Title IX compliance within the hearing process.
  • Extensively Trained Investigators and Adjudicators - Schools should ensure that investigators and adjudicators are thoroughly trained in the dynamics of sexual misconduct and abusive relationships. These types of abuse can cause emotional and behavioral responses in victim/survivors that are often counter-intuitive and difficult to comprehend for those who have not had extensive training in trauma response. Investigator and adjudicator training should include training on the types of abuse and the varying tactics perpetrators use to control and manipulate victims/survivors (often without physical or sexual violence), as well as the impact of abuse, including the barriers that prevent victims/survivors from leaving an abusive partner.

    Further suggested training topics include:
    • The psychological consequences of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence on victims/survivors
    • The dangers of leaving an abusive relationship
    • The spectrum of violence including emotional, psychological, physical and sexual violence
    • Outward signs/indicators of abuse (“Red flags”)
    • Common neurobiological responses of a trauma victim/survivor
    • Trauma-sensitive interviewing techniques
    • Appropriate accommodations for survivors involved in a hearing process
    • Legal and campus guidelines for investigation and adjudication
  • Victims’/Survivors’ Experiences as Evidence - Schools should not permit responding parties to introduce personal details about victims’/survivors’:
    • Mental health in disciplinary proceedings, unless issue related to their mental health goes towards proving or disproving an essential element of the case.
    • Sexual history unless determined to be directly relevant to the situation in question. Those designated to investigate and hear these cases will receive training that explains that the mere fact of a previous consensual sexual relationship does not itself imply consent or preclude a finding of sexual violence. The sexual behavior of the reporting party is irrelevant to any issue in the disciplinary process unless such behavior:
      • Is evidence of specific instances of sexual behavior offered for the purpose of showing that the act or acts charged were not committed by the responding party; or
      • Is evidence of a pattern of sexual behavior so distinctive and so closely resembling the responding party's version of the alleged encounter with the reporting party as to tend to prove that such reporting party consented to the act or acts charged or behaved in such a manner as to lead the responding party reasonably to believe that the reporting party consented; or
      • Is evidence of sexual behavior offered as the basis of expert psychological or psychiatric opinion that the reporting party fantasized or invented the act or acts charged.
  • Standard Expulsion Policy - Schools should implement a standard (not mandatory) expulsion policy. Many victims/survivors of IPV, stalking, and sexual violence feel reluctant to report the alleged perpetrator out of concern that someone they love or loved will be automatically or unconditionally expelled. Sometimes that reluctance changes as a victim/survivor meets other victims/survivors of the same alleged perpetrator, or as they progress through the reporting process. Regardless, it is critical that schools preserve victims’/survivors’ control over the process, and take care not to dissuade them from reporting by instituting a mandatory expulsion policy. Special attention should be paid to victim/survivor safety, however, if a perpetrator is found responsible for IPV or sexual misconduct and is not expelled (is allowed to remain on campus).
  • Protection Orders and Hearings - Schools should not penalize victims/survivors who have obtained civil protection orders (which often include distance requirements) by keeping them out of a disciplinary hearing room if they wish to be present in person. If a protection order is in effect, schools should ensure that the burden of complying with that order falls squarely on the responding party, who can then participate by having a partition during the hearing or through video software such as a closed-circuit camera.

Increase Safety for Students Who Report

No-Contact Orders

(Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, page 33).

Schools should:

  • Offer and enforce unilateral, campus-based no-contact orders when both the reporting and responding parties are students enrolled at the institution (or between a student and a current staff/faculty member).
  • Offer and enforce campus-based no-contact orders regardless of whether victims/survivors have obtained court-issued protection orders.
  • Explicitly state the consequences for breaking a no-contact order (and, if there are none, schools should make this clear so that victims/survivors can seek other protective measures).

No-contact orders should:

  • Be unilateral, not bilateral. For additional information on unilateral versus bilateral no-contact orders, visit page 5 of this article from the Victim Rights Law Center.
  • Be in writing- not just a verbal agreement between parties. The NCO should explain the difference between incidental and intentional contact, both in writing and verbally, to the involved parties.
  • Prohibit the alleged perpetrator from any form of contact with the student requesting the order: in person, via technology, or through a third-party (e.g., mutual friends).
  • Delineate specific guidance around the students’ timing and use of common areas of campus, such as the recreation center, library, and dining facilities.
  • Also be available to students who request them against a faculty or staff member.

Amnesty Policy

(Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, page 17).

Institutions should strive to create safe and comfortable spaces for victims/survivors who choose to notify school administrators of abuse. Sometimes, victims/survivors and witnesses are hesitant to disclose to university officials because they fear that they themselves may be accused of policy violations, such as drug use or underage drinking at the time of the incident. An amnesty policy offers victims/survivors and witnesses amnesty whenever possible from other policy violations related to the incident. Sometimes policy violations cannot be overlooked, so it is therefore recommended that institutions provide educational options, rather than punishment, for victims/survivors who have violated a school policy.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) suggests that “schools should consider whether their disciplinary policies have a chilling effect on victims’/survivors’ or other students’ reporting of sexual violence offenses” (Russlyn, 2011). The OCR provides the example that “schools inform students that the school’s primary concern is student safety, that any other rules violations will be addressed separately from the sexual violence allegation, and that use of alcohol or drugs never makes the victim at fault for sexual violence” (Russlyn, 2011).

Responsible Action (“Good Samaritan”) Policy

(Learn more from the NCCADV’s Model Policy and Guidance documents, page 17).

Sometimes, students are hesitant to offer assistance to others for fear that they may get in trouble. Students might be afraid to intervene or call the police for someone who is being threatened, or to call EMS or police when someone has been injured or has alcohol poisoning. A Responsible Action policy can offer limited immunity for students who offer help to others in need. Sometimes policy violations cannot be overlooked, so it is therefore recommended that institutions provide educational options, rather than punishment, for victims/survivors who have violated a school policy.

#4 Seek input and collaboration from reporting students and their advocates. Work together to solicit and incorporate victims'/survivors' and advocates' input about the school's actions related to IPV prevention and response, with respect for the confidentiality of all parties involved. 

What's Required

Address Victim/Survivor Confidentiality and Privacy

Institutions must identify how the Institution will protect the confidentiality of victims/survivors, including how publicly-available record-keeping will be accomplished without the inclusion of identifying information about the victim/survivor, to the extent permissible by law.

Policies should address the following:

  • Need to Know - Clearly state that only individuals who have a need to know, or to whom the victim/survivor has provided information, will have access to information about the notification and/or police report and resulting investigation(s). Materials and information should be shared only as necessary with investigators, witnesses, and other relevant parties. If the victim/survivor wishes to withdraw consent to share information with a certain party, that request should be honored. 

    A more public disclosure of general information about a case may be made if it is determined that such disclosure is necessary due to serious and imminent threat to the community. In these events, the victim’s/survivor’s name and identifying information should not be included.
  • Serious and Imminent Threat - Explain that while any request made by a victim/survivor that a matter not be investigated should be taken into account, appropriate steps should be taken to respond to the matter in cases of serious and imminent threat to the community.
  • Confidential Resources - Inform victims/survivors of the confidential resources available to them both on campus and in the community. State that victims/survivors can seek assistance from off-campus crisis centers, which can maintain confidentiality. Include names of and contact information for these centers. It is highly recommended that institutions designate confidential resources for victims/survivors to increase the likelihood that they will choose to report law enforcement and/or notify the institution of an incident. Additionally, proactively training confidential resources in the institution’s policies is vital to their ability to help victims/survivors navigate the reporting and adjudication processes.
  • Non-confidential/Obligation to Report - Clearly state which types of staff and faculty members are not confidential resources and therefore have an obligation to inform campus authorities of any reports of IPV, stalking, or sexual violence. Provide clear links to campus reporting forms, and information on where staff and faculty can direct questions about their duty to report.