A closer look at sexual assault reporting

MATTHEW VANTRYON | MANAGING EDITOR

Nearly one year ago, a protest on Butler University’s campus held by faculty and students in support of a Butler student with the blog pseudonym “Eliza Quincey” shed a light on potential deficiencies in the sexual assault process.

“Eliza” posted a pair of blog posts telling of an alleged rape and her frustration with the university’s allegedly insufficient response and process throughout the student conduct hearings. “Eliza” claimed the process took too long and was unfair.

Butler President James Danko announced plans to increase sexual violence prevention efforts and start a sexual assault commission in an email to the Butler community the day before the scheduled protest.

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The Butler community protested after Eliza Quincey’s alleged sexual assault.

“The  issue  of  sexual violence matters to all of us, and we must continuously strengthen our educational and preventative efforts,” he said in an April 16, 2014, email. “Many improvements are already underway, including the development and rollout of a comprehensive civil rights policy last year and the campus-wide expansion of Title IX training this spring.”

The Collegian wants to shed light on the reporting process when a sexual assault happens to help members of the Butler community understand the process.

Students need to report if they have been a victim of sexual assault. Depending on the victim’s comfort level, there are different reporting options — from most confidential to least confidential.

  • Counseling and Consultation Services
  • Health Services
  • Sexual assault victim advocate
  • Campus Security Authorities
  • Responsible Employees
  • BU Police Department
  • Title IX deputy coordinator for students

Counseling and Consultation Services

A student who has been assaulted and wishes to not have the information reported to police can visit a counselor at Butler’s counseling and consultation services. This information is kept entirely confidential.

Health Services

A student can also visit Health Services for an examination. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act provides patient record privacy, but health records are shared with insurance companies regarding coverage of treatment and reimbursement to medical organizations and professionals.

Sexual Assault Victim Advocate

Sarah Barnes-Diaz is Butler’s sexual assault victim advocate. She is available 24/7 via the phone number listed on the back of every student ID.

After informing the victim that she is required to report information to the police as a campus security authority, she listens to the victim and asks questions based on what the victim says.

“I would ask, ‘Are you able to tell me a little bit about what happened?’ The student will tell as much as they feel comfortable,” she said. “It’s not my role to investigate, so I don’t get into real nitty-gritty questions about the specifics of what they have experienced. But based on what they share with me, I take my cues from that information about things it might be helpful for them to consider or to know about.”

She shares information about available resources and next steps victims can take.

Barnes-Diaz encourages students to go to either St. Vincent Hospital or Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital to visit a Center of Hope, both located in Indianapolis. She will go with the student or make the initial phone call to the hospital if the victim makes that request.

Victims can receive a free full-body examination. They also can be tested for exposure to sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.

Barnes-Diaz offers to follow up with students after the initial conversation. Some students follow up the next day, some only follow up if they have questions, and others never follow up at all. She said what they do after that is up to them.

“Whatever decision they make is the right decision for that student,” she said. “My job is to provide options, to listen, to exhibit belief in the student and to be available.”

Researchers dispute the effect alcohol has in sexual assault cases on college campuses.

Researchers dispute the effect alcohol has in sexual assault cases on college campuses.

Campus Security Authorities

According to the Jeanne Clery Act, campus security authorities are required to report three pieces of information to the campus police for record-keeping purposes. This information includes the type of crime committed, the location of the crime and the date the crime took place.

Campus security authorities include campus police, security officers such as ESG security personnel and Health and Recreation Complex desk workers, the victim advocate and Title IX coordinator, and those who oversee organizations and groups on campus — deans, coaches, and resident assistants, among others.

Responsible Employees

According to Title IX, “responsible employees” who are told of incidents of sexual assault must report details of the incident to the Title IX coordinator or the Title IX deputy coordinator for students.

A responsible employee is any employee who has the duty of reporting sexual violence, or anyone who a student could believe has this responsibility. This includes any faculty or staff member on campus.

Responsible employees are told to listen to the student, refer students to resources such as the victim advocate, health services or BUPD, and report the incident to the Title IX coordinator.

BU Police Department

Victims can also report sexual assault to the police department. The department takes a proactive approach. FERPA, the law that protects student academic records, suggests that law enforcement records “may be disclosed” as public records. Since Butler is a private university and not a public university, it is not required to disclose these records.

“When they come straight to us, with that approach, we naturally take the assumption they want us involved, at least initially,” Butler detective Bruce Allee said.

BUPD’s first priority is to ensure the victim has received proper medical care. It encourages the victim to visit a Center of Hope.

The Center of Hope will also do a forensic collection of evidence. Butler detective Diane Sweeney said this collection of evidence is key if a student decides to press criminal charges.

“What’s important about that is that in the event they may have been drugged, the body metabolizes that quickly,” she said. “The sooner they can get in and get that established, it will help to strengthen their case if they decide to go criminally versus just administratively.”

This forensic evidence is valid for up to 365 days after it is collected.

Campus police play a crucial role in sexual assault reporting on college campuses.

Campus police play a crucial role in sexual assault reporting on college campuses.

Police detectives try to get as much information from the victim as possible.

Police need to know who was involved, how many people were involved, and if there is any evidence available that would be helpful in gathering additional information.

Detective Allee also said it is crucial to determine who potential witnesses are.

“Who might have they talked to?” he said. “Who might have been there? Who can help fill in the gaps of what the person may not be aware of? If it was an alcoholic situation, there might be people who knew of things going on that our victim wasn’t aware of. That’s going to be key.”

The location where the event occurred is also important, because it determines who takes charge of the case if it were to go to the prosecutor. If it occurred out of the BUPD’s jurisdiction, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department handles it, Allee said.

Andy Ryan, BUPD assistant police chief, said the department’s area of coverage includes anything on campus or anything within one to two blocks that is affiliated with Butler.

Allee said he and Sweeney present the victim with the option of pressing criminal charges after gathering information.

“We are not going to push them into the criminal process if they don’t want it to go that way,” Allee said. “It’s not our job to push them. If they do not want to go through the criminal process, then we start to back off. We don’t make them make a determination quick. We give them time to make that decision.”

Detective Sweeney said if a victim knows the alleged perpetrator, he or she qualifies for a protective order through the city of Indianapolis. Detectives can help walk victims through the online application process.

Title IX Deputy Coordinator for students

After being sexually assaulted, victims can ask for accommodations in order to ensure his or her safety and comfort on campus. Stacie Colston Patterson, Title IX deputy coordinator for students, facilitates these accommodations.

Accommodations can include a change in housing. Patterson also handles related details like parking passes and meal plans for the students.

There are other accommodations that can be made, but they will be taken only if a victim discloses the name of the accused. These include academic and co-curricular accommodations so there is no contact between the victim and the accused.

There are numerous next steps a victim can choose to take after reporting a crime: a police investigation and potential criminal prosecution, the process of student conduct board hearings and appeals, and the process of filing a Title IX complaint and an equity grievance panel hearing.

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