Incidents on South Street as well as climate survey results have recently raised the issue of sexual assault. As a result, they have also highlighted the existing programs that combat the issue. The adjudication process as well as Bystander Training practices are currently being reviewed.
The Office of Prevention Services (OPS) is working on Bystander 2.0 which will put into practice the strategies that a student learns in a training session. The new training program will be a follow up to the original program in order to build upon past efforts. On Nov. 22, 2015, the Senate passed an amendment requiring all club leaders to participate in the original form of bystander training. Bystander Intervention Training is a program in which peer facilitators use presentations and interactive activities to help students know when and how to intervene in situations where there is potential for sexual misconduct. According to Valerie Timms ’16, Charles River and 567 Senator, “The reasoning behind starting with just club leaders was just to get the ball rolling … ideally in the future we want … every single club member to be bystander trained.”
Timms herself is a bystander trainer, and she noted that the OPS often has difficulty finding a time in which two trainers can meet with a club that requests training. The OPS is looking to increase the amount of trainers on hand, specifically male trainers.
While the original format of bystander training has been successful, the OPS is concerned that it lacks a real-life element. “Something they’re really struggling with is people know this information, they know it’s important to do, but it’s not exactly … happening in the moment when you’re at a party,” said Timms. The goal of both versions of the program is still to increase the safety of students on and off campus. “We want Brandeis to be the best that it can be, the safest it can be,” said Timms.
For students who have experienced sexual misconduct, Brandeis has many options open to them, including confidential and non-confidential resources. Confidential peer resources include the Rape Crisis Center (RCC), the Queer Resource Center (QRC), Student Sexuality and Information Services (SSIS) and Students Talking About Relationships (STAR). Other confidential resources include the Multifaith Chaplaincy, the Brandeis Health Center and the Psychological Counseling Center (PCC).
The Rape Crisis Center is a peer resource that works closely with Sheila McMahon, a sexual assault services and prevention specialist, to provide assistance to survivors of sexual assault. “As peer advocates, we’ve been trained in crisis intervention and in campus resources, so we’re often the first points of contact for a survivor,” wrote Karen Lengler (GRAD), a peer advocate and communications manager at the RCC, in an email to The Brandeis Hoot.
Peer advocates at the RCC are confidential, though some resources on campus are not. Non-confidential resources include the Dean of Students Office, the Title IX Coordinator and Student Rights and Community Standards.
Confidentiality may mean something different depending on the center. At the RCC, peer advocates are not “responsible employees” under Title IX. “We are strictly confidential 100 percent of the time,” said Lengler. She further clarified that RCC workers may seek guidance from McMahon or Julia Rickey, survivor advocate and education specialist, who are also not considered “responsible employees” under Title IX. “The only scenario I can imagine in which a peer advocate would disclose a case to someone else is if they feel they need to find Julia or Sheila for support in serving a survivor. In that case, the survivor’s name would not have to be disclosed, and Julia and Sheila would be there to best prepare the advocate to support the survivor,” wrote Lengler in an email to The Hoot.
OPS staff do not uphold confidentiality when there is impending harm to self or others. In this situation, a student’s case may be reported under Title IX. McMahon clarified this clause. “It means that if someone has an active plan to commit suicide or homicide and they disclose that to us, we can’t ethically keep that to ourselves. We would coordinate with the PCC to make sure the student has the necessary support to be safe,” wrote McMahon in an email to The Hoot.
A student whose case is reported under Title IX has two options: a Title IX investigation or a Special Examiner’s Process. Rights & Responsibilities outlines the adjudication process and is updated yearly. The actual process itself is up for review. “The campus wide task force will be reviewing R&R in upcoming meetings regarding possible policy changes,” wrote McMahon.
Advocates at the RCC are available to walk students through the adjudication process. “Reporting sounds like a really intimidating alternative, and most students don’t know the ins and outs of the process—the RCC is there to inform them of that and make sure they wouldn’t have to go through it alone,” wrote Lengler.
Confidentiality remains an important factor for the peer resources available on campus. “Our focus is always going to be on the survivor and what they feel comfortable disclosing, and to whom,” said Lengler.