Editor’s Note: This article contains reference to sexual assault and interpersonal violence.
The Women’s Center and Office for Equal Opportunity and Equity within the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity work together to help guide students, faculty and staff through the process of reporting sexual assaults.
Janine Kossen, the director of the Women’s Center, said in addition to education programs on interpersonal violence, they also have Survivor Services, where trained advocates help guide members of the NC State community experiencing interpersonal violence in understanding options available to them and getting in touch with resources. This includes guiding them through reporting a sexual assault if they choose to do so.
“We provide prevention education, but we also provide survivor support response services,” Kossen said. “So, we have dedicated advocates who are trained in how to provide trauma informed services. As it relates to reporting, we cover reporting in both our prevention side and our response side.”
Kossen said students who may have experienced sexual assault can call the center’s helpline, go to the Women’s Center or may be referred by a peer or another office on campus. Kosen said it’s important for students to know advocates are required to report instances of interpersonal violence to the University, even if a student doesn’t want to file their own report.
“We are mandated reporters, so we do disclose that upfront, so that students can make an informed choice about how much detail they want to provide, or if they even want to continue the conversation,” Kossen said. “We can also work with students if they want to report. So, we break down and outline some of what the options are for them and answer any questions to demystify that process a little bit. And then, we can sit with them as they file a report.”
Despite advocates’ obligation to report an incident to the University, Kosen said students are still in complete control over what actions they personally do or do not want to take for themselves.
“There are a lot of reasons that students in particular choose not to come forward and file report,” Kossen said. “They are completely in control of that, … and even if a mandatory report is filed by a mandatory reporter, the individual who's impacted has all of the choice points about what the University does in response to that.”
David Elrod is associate provost for Equal Opportunity and Equity within the office. His department primarily handles aiding individuals in filing reports. He said his office provides training year round to educate employees about mandated reporting and options for individuals who are not mandated reporters.
Elrod said there isn’t necessarily a right time or situation to file a report, but resources will be available to students when/if they do decide to.
“There's not necessarily a right or wrong time for a person to report, and individuals process through a traumatic experience in various different ways,” Elrod said. “And none of those ways are necessarily correct or incorrect, so when they get to a point that they want to share, or they feel like they need to share, then it's the right time.”
Individuals can get in touch with his office by scheduling an appointment, walking into the office, emailing or filling out an online report form. Elrod said once a report form is completed, someone from Equal Opportunity and Equity will reach out to the individual within a few business days.
“We will send a notification out to the impacted party, to invite them to say, ‘We hear that you may be impacted because of an alleged incident, and we'd like to discuss this with you. Please contact us,’” Elrod said. “In that email, we will also copy resources, … so that even if they don't ever engage with our office, they have those resources.”
Elrod said they will continue trying to reach out to the individual three times over 10 days.
“On that last reporting piece, if they don't respond, what we will say is, ‘We're going to close [this case] out, but you can always open it up at any point in time,’” Elrod said.
Individuals can also submit an online report form anonymously. Elrod said this generally limits what the University can do, but it is an option for those who aren’t comfortable with disclosing identifying information. Elrod said there are still things that can be done in anonymous reporting situations, the approaches just may look different.
Kossen said advocates will continue to support students, even if they choose not to file a report, helping them find the resources they need.
“We're going to be there regardless of their choices for as long as they need it, and make sure that they get connected to other resources,” Kossen said. “We're not counselors, but maybe they're looking for clinical support. We can connect them to counseling. Maybe they're looking for a no contact order. We can help facilitate that.”
If a student does want to file a report and would like to have a formal investigation of an incident, survivor advocates can support them through the process.
“We'll be there for however much of the process they would like us to be a part of,” Kossen said. “So, if somebody is filing a report, and they choose to undergo a formal investigation, that will be run out of [Equal Opportunity and Equity], but there'll be interviews and different meetings with the folks who are in charge of investigating that we can accompany students to those meetings if they would like to have additional support.”
This support can look like explaining how the different steps of the investigative process works and answering any questions a student may have.
“What that often looks like is, in advance of that meeting, we'll kind of try to explain to them what to expect and how to prepare for it in the sense of emotional support,” Kossen said. “Then we will process what happened after the interview or after the meeting, because they may have questions or something may have come up for them that causes them to be having an emotional reaction, and so we'll be there to provide the support and the response.”
Elrod said his office has a list of resources they can connect people with including the Women’s Center, CARES, the University Police Department or others if needed.
“We have a list of resources both for complainants and for respondents because it's important for us, from an equity lens, that individuals regardless of where they're at in that alleged incident, have the resources,” Elrod said. “Whether there's academic adjustments, work schedule related, navigating through a person goes in a building one way and out a building a different way kind of situation.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship violence, sexual violence, stalking or any other form of interpersonal violence and are in need of advocacy services, the NC State Women’s Center has trained advocates available to offer crisis intervention, emotional support, resources and referrals. Students can contact the 24/7 Sexual Assault Helpline at 919-515-4444 or email email@example.com to schedule an appointment with an advocate.
Advocacy services through the NC State Women’s Center are available for all students inclusive of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
For more information on advocacy services, please visit go.ncsu.edu/supportsurvivors. If you would like to talk to a confidential resource, you can also connect with the NC State Counseling Center at 919-515-2423. You may also visit go.ncsu.edu/safe for additional information on resources and reporting options.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.