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April 03, 2019 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019 // The Statement



Do you


rom the viral spread of the
#MeToo movement to the brave
testimony of Dr. Christine Bla-
sey Ford, it’s not a secret that sexual
violence is pervasive in our society.
However, we are now living in a politi-
cal and social climate where many sur-
vivors of sexual violence are feeling a
sense of empowerment to speak up about
their experiences. It’s a time of increased
awareness, accountability and ultimate-
ly, a call for change.
Living during this important time for
social change, I began wondering how
my own community, the University of
Michigan, can better inform students
about this situation. While organizations
that you may be familiar with (e.g. the
Sexual Assault Prevention and Aware-
ness Center) and the University admin-
istration should continue to focus on
preventative efforts, it’s equally impor-
tant for these institutions to understand
that sexual violence on college campuses
is indeed a widespread issue that stu-
dents and universities must be equipped
to handle.
The addition of an in-person hearing
— a process that allows students who
have been involved in sexual miscon-
duct allegations to ask questions of each
other and witnesses — to the Student
Sexual Misconduct Policy motivated me
to write my senior honors thesis titled
“Legal Underpinnings and Implications
of Sexual Assault on College Campuses:
Perceptions, Attitudes and Policy Rec-
ommendations.” My thesis focused on
the potential implications of the changes
to the SSMP and student’s knowledge
about reporting sexual misconduct on

this campus. Are these changes help-
ful? Are students informed about them?
Are these attempts by the University
to reform reporting sexual misconduct
Prior to the adoption of this interim
policy, students were able to circum-
vent many of these legal proceedings,
including an in-person hearing, and
report directly to the University. When
I began at the University of Michigan,
survivors had the option to report to the
University about their experiences. In
response to these allegations, the Uni-
versity may have responded by changing
a student’s classes or moving their dorm.
In contrast, students could report to law
enforcement where they would have a
formal trial. However, the adoption of
this policy blurs the line between the
traditional criminal justice system and
the ways the University approaches sex-
ual misconduct. With this policy change,
in the eyes of many, what was once two
distinct ways of reporting sexual mis-
conduct coalesces into two indistin-
guishable options.
As such, with the number of reported
incidents expected to decrease, I wanted
to collect data surrounding students’ per-
ceptions of reporting and adjudicating
sexual misconduct on campus. To gain
an understanding of what is currently
available to survivors, I had conversa-
tions with various offices on campus
(i.e., SAPAC, Counseling and Psychologi-
cal Services, Ann Arbor Police Depart-
ment and Division of Public Safety and
Security). My goal with these conversa-
tions was to identify what makes their
office unique and especially valuable to

survivors. For example, CAPS is geared
toward creating positive mental path-
ways while SAPAC services can help
with crisis intervention and can help
survivors formulate an individualized
healing plan.
Building off of these conversations
with campus officials, I interviewed
students across all three University of
Michigan campuses—Ann Arbor, Dear-
born and Flint. I asked students vari-
ous questions including what resources
they would recommend if a friend came
to them after experiencing intimate
partner violence or sexual assault. The
results from a sample of 32 participants
indicated that half of the participants
said they did not know of any on or off
campus resources to which they would
direct a friend.
The lack of awareness of the inter-
viewed students was disturbing and per-
plexing. For many students, reporting is
not an option they are interested in pur-
suing. However, for those who are inter-
ested in exploring their options, how can
students feel safe when they don’t even
know where to report their grievances or
seek resources?
Currently, the University has various
prevention programs in place. U-M Ann
Arbor offers a three-step process for all
incoming undergraduates. This includes
an online module about alcohol and sex-
ual violence; the peer-delivered program
Relationship Remix, aimed at teaching
college freshmen about consent, person-
al values, and healthy relationships; and
a bystander intervention program called
Change it Up!, which is delivered as a
skit-based performance by students.

U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn also
offer online programs to educate their
incoming students. The University needs
to consider whether efforts solely target-
ing incoming students (freshmen and
transfer students) are sufficient to pro-
vide education related to campus mis-
conduct policies and reporting options.
At least from a reporting standpoint,
with 50 percent of my sample unclear of
where to report, it seems that these edu-
cational programs are clearly not suffi-
It’s difficult to say with certainty how
the new policy will be embraced by stu-
dents on campus. However, what is clear
is that students do not have adequate
knowledge of current campus resources.
It might be instinctual to blame the
University for these lapses in knowledge,
as many students in my sample did. How-
ever, it is also equally likely that students
are part of the problem. Despite the
known prevalence of sexual misconduct
on college campuses, no student wants
to think that they or someone they know
will ever be in need of reporting sexual
misconduct or of survivor-centered ser-
A knowledgeable and aware student
body requires the efforts of both stu-
dents and the University. As a tangible
product of my thesis and in hopes that
my research will help students under-
stand what resources exist on our cam-
pus, I created a graphic. My hope is that
this resource will educate students,
emphasize the importance of knowing
your options, and prove that you are never
alone at the University of Michigan.

Reporting sexual misconduct on campus


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