In April of 2014, we the student coalition Brandeis Students Against Sexual Violence (B.SASV) released a petition outlining urgent measures that Brandeis University should take to improve and expand resources for survivors of sexual violence and combat rape culture. In November of 2014, we released our first progress report which aimed to update our community on the work that had been done so far and provide feedback to the university for ways to improve further. Members of B.SASV continue to work with students, administrators, staff, and faculty to make Brandeis a safer place for survivors and to improve the essential resources on campus which provide support and information to those affected by sexual violence. We have also participated in and organized various events to raise awareness of the issues of sexual violence in the Brandeis community, including a silent, peaceful demonstration at the Light of Reason opening ceremony and an annual march on the Carry That Weight Day of Action. As long as we are needed, we will continue to support survivors in our community and advocate for these necessary changes to Brandeis’ policies and practices to make our campus safe.
While changes have been made and work has been done to address the points in the previous progress report, not enough has been done within the last two years. While it is a terrible and sickening reality, we must recognize as a community that sexual violence happens here if we are to enact change. As members of the student body, administration and university at large, we need to drastically improve the ways in which sexual violence is handled at Brandeis. It is unacceptable to have known perpetrators and abusers walking around campus. It is unacceptable to have survivors and their supporters be unaware of the reporting and counseling options available on campus. It is unacceptable that Brandeis, as an institution, allows for these things to happen not only through a lack of response, but through actions like hiring known perpetrators for positions of power on campus. We, the members of B.SASV, fight and will continue to fight for the changes below because we know a better, safer campus environment is possible if we all work together to eradicate rape culture.
What follows is an in-depth follow-up on the demands we made in April 2014 for the campus in our Change.org petition that garnered over 2,700 signatures. While we are glad to see the administration starting to work with us, there is more to be done, and it must be done quickly.
1. Clear and accessible information on existing reporting paths, options, and resources
Previous Grade: B-
How to improve:
- Increase distribution of Resource Guide for Survivors printed by the Office of Communications
- Update the existing “Get Help” posters to include more complete information, and having translated versions in at least Spanish, Mandarin and Korean
- Create a flowchart that clarifies different reporting and counseling options to students that is widely disseminated
Since the last progress report in Spring 2014, B.SASV is happy about the ways in which the Office of Prevention Services and the Rape Crisis Center began addressing campus sexual violence and helping the community. However, both offices are poorly advertised and understaffed. The ACLU guide Title IX and Sexual Assault- Know Your Rights and University’s Responsibilities states that a “strong sexual assault policy should…be available and understandable to students.” While the Office of Prevention Services website is a centralized, relatively easy-to-use resource where there is a wealth of good information, it is unclear how many people know of its existence or would know to turn to OPS in crisis. Because the name does not make explicit the office’s purpose, we recommend improving advertising and more clearly explaining the kinds of services that OPS offers. This can be accomplished as easily as linking to the OPS website on official Brandeis social media pages.
The “Get Help Now” posters displayed in bathrooms across campus are a step in the right direction. However, the posters could be improved and alternative publicity methods should be considered. Firstly, it is difficult to remember long phone numbers or website addresses; and it may not always be safe for students to photograph the poster on their phones for future references. We suggest adding a QR code to the posters that students can easily scan and have on their devices. The posters are also vague about what will happen once someone calls either Campus Safety or the RCC (addressed in Progress Report Point #2). We additionally believe that the OPS website should be on any posters or flyers adversiting resources: http://www.brandeis.edu/preventionservices/. We demand that these posters are available in all bathrooms across campus. Broader dissemination of existing print resources could also be improved, such as the Resource Guide for survivors printed by the Office of Communications.
There are additionally several ways that the available online resources could be improved upon. There is no readily accessible, easy-to-find document online that explains the difference between confidential resources and responsible employees (mandated reporters). It is difficult to find the 24/7 hotline number or an explanation of how the hotline works. B.SASV urges that a flowchart clarifying the different reporting and counseling options be available to students, physically and online. This would clarify CSRs, the SEP (Special Examiner’s Process), reporting to the police (Brandeis campus or Waltham), and seeing a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner).
Moreover, to ensure the true accessibility of all Brandeis resources, we urge the University to expedite the process of translating relevant webpages, documents (such as the Rights & Responsibilities handbook), and advertising (such as the “Get Help Now” posters) for students who are not native English speakers, in at least Spanish, Mandarin, and Korean. We also urge the University to hire more counseling specialists who are bilingual, for the benefit of students who would communicate more easily in another language (e.g. International students, bilingual students, ESL students).
2. A permanent on-call crisis response counselor
Previous Grade: F
How to improve:
- Hire a full-time on-call, confidential crisis counselor (outside of people already on staff) specializing in over-the-phone crisis response.
- Hire back-up on-call counselors for when the hired individual is not on-call.
- Publish and advertise how the line works and who would be answering calls.
- Implement a pager system for existing on-call staff members to decrease wait-time.
When one calls the RCC Crisis Line, someone will always answer, but depending on the time of day it is rerouted to different personnel. During the RCC’s hours of operation between 12-5pm, a student advocate on shift takes this call. After business hours, it is redirected to the PCC’s on-call after hours line, and from there it goes to one of several people including Sheila McMahon and Julia Rickey, depending on the needs of the caller. This makes the process of calling the crisis number significantly more difficult for a caller because they may be inclined to hang up or not utilize the phone service at all if they are unsure of who they will be talking to or if the call is confidential. When someone calls a crisis line, they are in need of a timely response. We suggest that there be one person whose main position is answering the RCC Crisis Line, so that individuals in crisis know exactly who they would be talking to. This advocate needs to be fully confidential, trained, and fully aware of resources and reporting options at Brandeis. There also need to be back-up counselors for when this counselor is not able to be on-call.
In order to decrease wait time, we ask that the university invest in a pager system for all professional staff within the Psychological Counseling Center, Office of Prevention Services, Brandeis Rape Crisis Center as well as those with positions specific to Title IX.
While this is a good first step, we need to address the needs of the entire Brandeis community. If multiple people call the line at once, it would be impossible to accommodate them all with just one individual. Moving forward, we need to have a group of trained individuals who can accommodate the entire Brandeis community. We propose that there be an additional staff member added to the Office of Prevention Services or the Rape Crisis Center, whose position allows them to be by the phone more often and be on-call at all times. With this system in place, we believe that this resource would be more widely known and utilized, and would act as an effective, safe, confidential resource for the Brandeis community.
3. A psychologist on the Psychological Counseling Center staff who specifically specializes in sexual trauma, violence and assault for long-term counseling
Previous Grade: B+
How to improve:
- Hire and retain a new trauma specialist.
- Prioritize finding a clinician of color.
- Prioritize finding clinicians speaking languages other than English (especially Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and Hindi).
- Clarify and communicate information about cost of services (transparency is essential).
- Advertise urgent care drop-in hours (11am and 3pm M-F, for students in a crisis requiring immediate intervention).
According to Psychological Counseling Center staff, the center is in the process of hiring a new trauma specialist since Kristin Huang, the previous trauma specialist, left at the end of the last academic year (Fall 2015). As this process moves forward, priority should be placed on hiring and retaining a clinician of color in order to begin creating safer, more accessible counseling services for students of color. For now, there are 12 clinicians on staff who have training in trauma counseling, but none is considered a trauma specialist, and only two have stated experience in sexual violence survivor counseling.
Additionally, while one clinician on staff is fluent in Cantonese and Mandarin, more clinicians speaking a language other than English are necessary given the significant population of international students, students for whom English is a second language, and bilingual students at Brandeis. It is especially important to be able to support international students given that the added stress of moving alone to a new country is a risk factor for mental illness or psychological distress. In order to do this effectively, there must be more staff with the ability to speak Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Spanish and Hindi, to best serve the largest populations of international students at Brandeis.
The PCC should also work to make sure students are aware of their policies surrounding cost of services and crisis intervention. Financial concerns are often a barrier to students seeking support, and currently there is no clarification of the cost of sessions beyond the first twelve. [There has also been a proposed change within the PCC to limit these twelve sessions based on the necessity of the sessions, which is unacceptable. Students need the option of these twelve free sessions no matter how insignificant the PCC deems the issues at hand. These sessions are often the only affordable resources for students to get therapy, and limiting these based on need goes against the goal of helping students through confidential, safe access to resources.] According to Senior Associate Director of the PCC Joy von Steiger, this proposed change, which was included in Orientation and CA trainings, is no longer in effect. The PCC offers drop-in hours for immediate crisis intervention at 11AM and 3PM Monday-Friday, yet so few Brandeis students seem to know about this opportunity to get immediate care. Even advertising this on the homepage for the PCC website would be an improvement.
In the past year, Brandeis hired Survivor Advocate and Education Specialist Julia Rickey to work at the Rape Crisis Center and the Office of Prevention Services, though she is officially listed as a PCC staff member as well. In her role, she acts as a confidential advocate for student survivors of sexual violence and intimate partner abuse. She currently leads the PCC’s support group for survivors of sexual violence and intimate partner abuse (10-11AM on Fridays). While Julia works closely with survivors, her primary role is advocacy and education through supervision of the RCC, and she does not provide long-term trauma counseling. While Julia’s hiring is great an improvement to the RCC, OPS, and PCC teams, it is imperative that students have access to continuous, consistent trauma counseling at the PCC should they desire it.
4. Proper training of university staff, faculty, and administrators on the roles and responsibilities of mandated reporters and/or responsible employees under Title IX
Previous Grade: D
How to improve:
- Make bystander intervention training mandatory for all incoming staff and faculty, preferably with re-training at least once a year.
- Require that CA training include bystander intervention training and thorough informational sessions about being Responsible Employees (Mandated Reporters).
The Office of Human Resources provides training and professional development to all employees of the university that includes a variety of hands-on training, lectures, and seminars. They also provide two-hour long workshops three times in the spring semester (possibly the same in the Fall) entitled “Preventing Sexual Harassment and Title IX for Managers and Faculty” that provide “information and tools necessary to recognize, prevent and respond to sexual harassment and sexual assault” and their roles as Responsible Employees. The information page also highlights that they hold a “discussion of bystander intervention and how to prevent and respond to sexual assaults,” but no actual bystander intervention training actually takes place.
We recommend that all faculty and employees, new and old, be trained in bystander intervention. We recognize that it is important for those who are Responsible Employees to be fully aware and trained in dealing with situations involving sexual assault. It is also highly recommended that the trainings be compulsory, at least when the faculty or employee is hired initially.
Additionally, Community Advisors, with their high likelihood of being the first people residents might disclose incidents regarding sexual misconduct to, need to be trained better in handling situations regarding sexual assault. During CA training, there needs to be a thorough information session about what is means to be a responsible employee and how the role interacts within the Brandeis community. Some CAs do have informational sheets on their doors regarding being a mandated reporter/responsible employee, and we would like this become mandatory for all CAs. Not only do CAs need to be aware of their own role, they need to clearly advertise this responsibility and the procedure within residence halls so that students are able to make informed decisions regarding disclosing sexual misconduct.
5. Pro-social bystander intervention, effective consent and healthy relationship workshops offered at Orientation and extensively throughout the entire school year
Previous Grade: C-/D+
How to improve:
- Mandate smaller and more intensive training for all Orientation Leaders.
- Train all OLs to work with international students.
- Include locations of campus resources in Orientation brochure.
- Offer Bystander Training in at least Spanish, Mandarin and Korean.
- Require all faculty, staff and student leaders to receive bystander training.
Although Speak About it offers comprehensive information about consent and assault to incoming students, Orientation Leaders are still not receiving adequate training. We suggest that they are broken into small, intensive groups for bystander and consent training. We ask that the Orientation CORE committee works to seek out individuals prepared to safely and confidently lead these sessions. This should be a priority in their application. Allowing unqualified OLs to lead these sessions puts both incoming students and the OL at risk. All OLs must receive training to work with international students in order to make the Speak About It and SSIS break out sessions accessible to everyone. The Department of Orientation must continue to collect the names of new students who did not attend Speak About It to ensure the student is mandated to attend a similar training offered by the Office of Prevention Services.
All materials distributed at orientation must include not only the role of each on-campus resources, but their locations as well. Any brochures or handouts should clarify which resources are confidential and which are not.
All faculty, staff, and students in positions of leadership and power must attend in person consent and bystander trainings. The online training program Get Inclusive, piloted in 2015, focused on increasing empathy for survivors rather than teaching and encouraging proactive methods of preventing abuse and assault. We recognize that online programs can be beneficial because they are easily disseminated and therefore suggest that another, more comprehensive program is found to replace Get Inclusive. This program should include information about seeking consent, identifying a situation requiring intervention, low-risk ways of disrupting potential sexual violence, and how to proceed if a situation becomes violent or dangerous.
6. Specific sexual assault response training of Brandeis Public Safety officers
Previous Grade: D-
How to improve:
- More extensive annual training for all officers.
- Create a list of trained officers on the Public Safety website to allow for direct contact of an officer best suited to assist with student needs.
- Make it possible to submit anonymous feedback of Public Safety officers online.
Every officer going into the academy receives basic training in how to handle sexual assault cases. The state has a forty-hour course for officers to become sexual assault investigator certified. Fourteen Brandeis Public Safety officers have this certification.
Because of the implementation of Title IX for colleges, investigative employees are now involved in an annual training for the Title IX and Clery advanced investigators course, led by Dolores Stafford. Part of this training is an annual online refresher course. Each year, all but four officers go through an annual training through the company Margolis Healy. The officers exempt from training do not attend because they must be on duty, however this problem can be avoided simply by having more than one training session to ensure that all officers have the same level of yearly training. In general it is a two-day training, but this year it is an eight-hour, one-day refresher course. It was agreed that all officers also go through annual diversity training. As of last year, Margolis Healy also leads this training, which focuses on embedded cultural norms and interpretations, biased based policing, best practices for diversity, equity, and inclusion, etc. This training will be held on May 31st this year. The sexual assault refresher course will be in June. The sexual assault and diversity trainings invite any Brandeis community members involved in or working with Title IX to attend as well, as well as any Bentley University police, and the Waltham police. The Department of Public Safety has also led multiple outreach events with the community. They had an ice cream social for Kindness Day, a ‘Coffee with the Cops’ event to allow for discussions, and they are planning a ‘Pizza with the Police’ event at the Stein sometime before April Break.
These trainings and outreach events are extremely important and demonstrate an effort made on the Department of Public Safety. That being said, there is still significant room for improvement. Currently, there is no way to report feedback anonymously, which is problematic if an individual is uncomfortable with disclosing their name but still wishes to provide feedback to the department. There are various parts of the Department of Public Safety website where phone numbers for resources such as the Brandeis Rape Crisis Center, the Office of Prevention Services and the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center should be added. Additionally, there should be a listing of officers including their names and trainings/certifications so that anyone looking to work with the Department of Public Safety will be able to contact whichever the officer best suited to help that individual in their specific situation. This increased transparency is vital and urgent.
Many of these suggestions for changes have been discussed with the Department of Public Safety. We are happy they have been well-received and are ideally underway. There still needs to be more changes that occur, to make a safe and comfortable working relationship between the Brandeis community and the Department of Public Safety.
7. An effective campus-wide campaign to combat rape culture
Previous Grade: F
How to improve:
- Delegate this task to someone who presently works in the Office of Prevention Services, or hire someone to create a campaign.
- Seek student input about rape culture at Brandeis, and tailor such a campaign to uniquely target these aspects.
It has been two years since the previous progress report and there is still no clear, comprehensive long-term campaign that exists to combat rape culture; if one is presently being created, members of B.SASV are unaware of it and have not been asked to provide student input. All elements of rape culture continue to be a problem at Brandeis, and educational efforts to teach people about combating rape culture continue to fall to student groups such as FMLA and BSRJ, and individual students themselves. Student groups are also the only ones who take initiative to create spaces to discuss these issues in a meaningful way. Students such as Victoria Jonas ‘15 have created effective PSAs, such as the “It Happens Here” video in previous semesters. The RCC and OPS are also working on video PSAs, both managed by students alone. In order to ensure that perpetrators are not involved in the creation of these videos, there must be a screening process developed for abusers and assailants. Many of these tools are already used by domestic violence advocacy groups in order to avoid helping abusers, and they can be adapted to keep those who do harm out of antiviolence work. We also suggest that a group of students from various campus groups that work to prevent sexual violence act as a screening and review panel before these PSAs are made and disseminated.
Rape culture, however, cannot be adequately confronted by the effort of student activists alone. It continues to be the responsibility of the administration and other adult professionals at Brandeis to create and implement effective campaigns to fight rape culture in all its forms. Legally, the presence and pervasiveness of rape culture at Brandeis constitutes a hostile environment, which violates Title IX regulations. There needs to be a hired and designated employee that works to create a larger knowledge of rape culture and sexual violence statistics on campus, rather than having this work always fall on students who are at Brandeis to get an education, not educate the administration about institutional violence. We reiterate this in the hopes that the administration will take these ideas, and the safety of Brandeis students, seriously and act promptly.
8. Awareness of non-abusive sexual behavior and list of resources as a part of party registration process
Previous Grade: F
How to improve:
- Collaborate with the RCC to write up a script in order to accurately guide the conversation about consent with the host(s), ABS, and the AC.
- Advocate for the event host and/or ABS be bystander intervention trained.
- Create a second flyer that highlights the resources that are available for event-goers. The second flyer should also need to be stamped for approval and posted along with the event registration permit for all event-goers to see.
The Department of Community Living has recently implemented a new event registration process for all residents who wish to host events in their suites in all quads. Students are expected to fill out a form that details information about the party including: number of people, date of event, start and end times, whether alcohol is present, and who is the event host monitor (sober host(s)), and Alcohol Beverage Server (ABS). After registering online, the event host meets with DCL, typically the Area Coordinator of the respective quad. The AC reviews the details of the event, including smoking violations and how to identify event-goers in distress or need. Both the event host and ABS are responsible for reporting any students in distress or anything that seems out of their control by contacting either Brandeis Police or the Community Advisor on call. The AC, however, does not have a particular script to follow when talking about consent and sexual assault with the host in an effort to keep the conversation “genuine.” This poses as a problem because it keeps hosts from having concrete information about consent and the conditions under which consent can or cannot be given.
Event hosts and ABS, while encouraged to seek assistance when they witness somebody in distress, are not trained or expected to in any way intervene when suspicious activities are taking place or when they suspect a violation of consent. Event hosts need to be trained in bystander intervention should they wish to host parties. DCL, however, is concerned that if this is made a requirement, students will not register events at all. DCL Director Tim Touchette is working with the other ACs to gather data on the number of event hosts who are trained in bystander intervention. This will give us a first step to look at the extent to which the resource is needed by students in wet and dry quads. B.SASV still believes that it is vital that hosts are trained and retrained throughout the semester, because it ensures that there is at least one person at the event who is trained to recognize scenarios where they may need to step in and intervene. In collaborating with OPS, which provides bystander intervention training, DCL can begin to make sure that their parties are safer.
DCL also requires the host to put up the Event Registration Permit for all event-goers to see and is checked by the CA on call. It contains information about the host of the event, their phone number, and a list of “safety resources.” The flyer also highlights that “consent is mandatory,” and, in smaller font, that “communication is key; silence does not mean yes.” The text highlighting all this information is very small, as is the list of resources. Key information is missing about what kind of resources they are, and when and how they are available. B.SASV suggests that a second flyer be created that would contain a list of resources available to event-goers and communicate the importance of consent. The second flyer should be stamped for approval and posted along with the event registration permit for all event-goers to see. They need to clearly illustrate what times the resources are accessible, what their main purpose is, who staffs them, and whether they are confidential or not. We also recommend implementing a QR code system here, so students can safely store the information until they are safe to use it.
9. Accessible safety networks for students
Previous Grade: F
How to improve:
- Mandate pro-social bystander intervention trainings for all student club leaders and athletes.
- The university must invest in ways to promote student safety networks with the promotion of helpful apps and creation of online and/or written guides.
- Make the RCC more accessible by hiring multi-lingual advocates, posting signage throughout Usdan and providing a larger location.
Since the introduction of the pro-social bystander intervention trainings in Spring 2014 by Sexual Assault Services and Prevention Specialist Sheila McMahon, there have been few updates to this initiative. The goal of this program is to call for a community response to sexual violence, rather than focusing solely on the relationship between perpetrator and victim/survivor. Even though the program has reached a large number of students and student groups, the trainings are not mandatory in order for clubs to receive funding from A-board. This point was raised in the last progress report and still has not been addressed. As student leaders hold positions of power, it is imperative that they are required to go through this program in order to begin to change our community’s response to sexual violence.
Furthermore, B.SASV wants to stress the linguistic accessibility of resources such as bystander training, the Brandeis Rape Crisis Center, the Psychological Counseling Center and the Brandeis Police. As of now, these resources are only accessible to those who speak English fluently and comfortably. Considering the large international community at Brandeis, not having these resources accessible to them creates an environment where only certain students have access to counseling and other resources.
Regarding the Rape Crisis Center, Brandeis has not done enough to make it as accessible as possible. The center is open only from 12am-5pm. Classes, jobs and other responsibilities might bar students in crisis from accessing the center at these hours. If a student needs help from the RCC outside of these hours, they are routed to the 24-hour phone line (addressed in Progress Report Point #2). In addition, the center is not physically accessible, to the point where the location of the RCC is obscured. There is no sign or plaque that indicates that the center is there. The doors to Usdan that one would enter to access the center only advertise the Office of Prevention Services, Study Abroad and the Gender and Sexuality Center. Brandeis needs to add the Rape Crisis Center to this signage. Finally, while we are happy that the RCC exists, the location is not sufficient. There are several heavy doors and steps involved in getting to the center. Once there, the center is incredibly small, making it difficult for anyone in a wheelchair or on crutches to navigate such the space. These barriers make the RCC, a resource for all of the Brandeis community, inaccessible. All of these points are applicable to other resources, such as the PCC, OPS and the Brandeis Police.
10. Engaging broader campus resources
Previous Grade: D-
How to improve:
- Increase transparency about the groups currently in existence to work on these issues (i.e Provost’s Task Force on Sexual Violence).
- Fund awareness campaign that distributes clear information about reporting and campus resources to students at Orientation and other campus events.
- Mandate that all students take the campus climate survey and clarify the purpose of the survey in all notifications.
There has been no improvement in transparency between the Provost’s Task Force and students. Student leaders should be sought out and serve an active role in communicating and planning with the Task Force. The members of this coalition should make themselves known and available to students.
The last climate survey had a 34.5% response rate. To ensure that the results are representative of our campus, the survey must be mandatory for all students. We suggest creating a system similar to the one connected with releasing semester grades earlier to students who fill out course evaluations. By creating a hold on a student’s sage account, for instance, a student couldn’t register for classes unless they take the Campus Climate Survey. This would ensure its completion and thus, more complete data about Brandeis’ student population.
According to the results of the last survey, only 38.2% of those students knew where to go for resources. The university must fund an awareness campaign to increase the understanding and awareness of these resources through signs and presentations. To achieve this, Brandeis must design and distribute a clear, cohesive flowchart across campus with all (including peer) resources available to survivors of sexual violence. This flyer should explicitly state what will happen if a survivor seeks out each resource, what to expect and where to go for different types of help, how to report, and where to seek counseling. This flyer should state which resources are confidential, anonymous, and which people are responsible employees. It will need to be larger than 8.5”x11”, and can exist online as an interactive flowchart progressing through questions about reporting, medical care, short and long term counseling, advocacy, housing concerns, and barriers to resources (such as language, ability, relationships, support systems). As a group, we are happy to act as a focus group for this design, and would like to see it on CAs doors, as well as in bathrooms around campus.
11. A permanent rape crisis center on campus
Previous Grade: D+
How to improve:
- Hire at least one more professional sexual assault advocate.
- Find a larger, truly confidential physical space for the RCC.
- Advertise the RCC on the doors in Usdan.
The establishment of the Rape Crisis Center last year is one of our biggest successes as an activist and advocate group. We are proud to say that this invaluable and much needed resource is now open and available to Brandeis students seeking support, education, and resources surrounding sexual violence.
Although we are glad it exists, there are a number of potential problems with the RCC that the university must address if it is to be a supportive, confidential resource for all students. The RCC is staffed by only one professional survivor advocate, Julia Rickey, and ten student advocates, including three student staff members. While these students are highly trained and empathetic people, they are still peers, which can make a survivor feel rightfully uncomfortable or hesitant to access the space during a time of crisis. In addition, a student advocate cannot be a substitute for a professional advocate with years of experience and training. Having Julia and Sheila on staff as resources for survivors is a great start, but Brandeis must invest in at least one more professional advocate to do justice to the number of people requiring advocate services. This would increase the number of advocacy options for survivors, and potentially lengthen the opening hours of the RCC, currently from 12-5pm.
The Rape Crisis Center is currently located in what used to be a closet and it shares a space with the Office of Prevention Services. It’s unacceptable that a resource as vital as a rape crisis center be held in a tiny space that is unable to accommodate its intended purpose. Not only is the physical space too small, but OPS is staffed by at least one student who is a mandated reporter, which severely compromises the confidentiality of the RCC. For example, if a student in distress comes in and discloses in the presence of a mandated reporter, they must report to their supervisor who sends a report along to the Title IX office, which then reaches out to the student. In addition, there is only one small room inside the RCC where a person in need could have a private conversation. If one person is using that room, the only other space for another student would be in the front of the center, where people can hear conversations from the hallway. Thus, the RCC cannot be truly confidential until it exists in its own space.
12. Effective and accessible reporting system and options
How to improve:
- Implement a better reporting system for sexual misconduct, such as Callisto.
- Remove sensitivity training sanction in cases of perpetrators being found responsible.
- Allow CAs, and other students who are mandated reporters/responsible employees, to opt out of this function when not serving in their role as a CA or responsible employee.
It has recently come to the attention of B.SASV that the system that Brandeis uses to report misconduct, Adirondack, has been removing names from submitted complaints. We have been informed that this has been addressed, but are still concerned about the possibility of past reports not being addressed because of the glitch in the system. The Community Standard Reports (CSRs) are the primary way that reports of misconduct, including sexual misconduct are submitted. If a name is not attached to a report, the Dean of Students Office is significantly less likely to follow up on the misconduct because they do not have a complainant to ask about wanting to file an informal or formal report. Thus, this system makes it harder for survivors who have attached their names to the report to have their perpetrators investigated and face sanctions. In addition, Adirondack does not allow students to save an incomplete report and return to it at a later date. This system as the primary reporting system makes reporting complicated and difficult to use, which discourages survivors from reporting sexual misconduct. By adjusting the way reporting is done at Brandeis, we will be able to prevent perpetrators of sexual violence from being hired in positions of power on and off campus, and empower survivors to report.
B.SASV believes that an alternative system, such as Callisto, would make reporting easier, more efficient and more accessible for survivors. Callisto aims to allow institutions to “increase reporting, improving the detail and accuracy of reports, strengthening student trust of the institution and protecting confidentiality and data security.” In addition, Callisto uses a system where survivors can choose to withhold their report from going to the appropriate office at Brandeis unless the name of their perpetrator matches the name of another student’s perpetrator. Studies have shown that up to 90% of assaults are committed by repeat perpetrators, and Brandeis is not exempt from this truth. Having a system such as Callisto would allow for survivors to easily create an electronic record of their assault, have options in moving forward with a report, and bolster a network of prevention involving repeat offenders. By empowering survivors of sexual assault, we as a campus can better combat rape culture and prevent sexual violence. More information about Callisto can be found here: https://www.projectcallisto.org/
As Brandeis is a small school where students occupy many leadership positions, there needs to be a change in how these students occupy these roles. CAs are currently classified as responsible employees at all times, which can become problematic and unhelpful. For example, if someone comes to a CA to speak to them as a friend, the CA’s duty as an university employee prevents them from being a confidential support; they would have to report any instances of misconduct mentioned in the conversation. In addition, this compromises the confidentiality of spaces such as the RCC and OPS. If a survivor comes into the RCC (which houses OPS as well) and discloses an assault publicly, any responsible employee in the space would be required to report this, even though the survivor could not have known at the time that the confidentiality of the space was compromised. Thus, Brandeis needs to change the policy surrounding student mandated reporters to ensure confidentiality when a student isn’t acting in their role as an employee.
We would like to end by saying that acknowledging the reality of sexual violence on this campus and moving forward with tangible changes in procedures and staff is not endangering Brandeis’ reputation. It is well-known that sexual violence, assault, harassment, and abuse happens at every college campus. By talking about it openly and refusing to accept members of the community who harm others, Brandeis could become an institution that other schools model their policies after.
In the spirit of the social justice activism that started this university, we ask that the administration listen to what students need and what they will not stand for anymore. We ask that in addition to the good work that they have done, that they be proactive in their approach to ending sexual violence at Brandeis, not begrudgingly reactive. Because it concerns students so intimately, the conversation surrounding sexual violence here must be open to all people, and that the lines of communication between students, staff, and administrators must stay open as well. We are confident that these changes will improve the Brandeis campus and will empower all to speak openly about sexual violence.