Tips on What to Do if You Believe You Have Been a Victim of Campus Sexual Misconduct

Lori B. Tucker, Esq. & Jake Goldberg, President & Founder of Students Advocating for Students
Article

**This article  is the second in a series of articles that are designed to provide students with a diagnosis of Asperger’s or autism with tips regarding the sexual misconduct policies and procedures at our nation’s colleges.**  The first article, Tips for Preventing A Violation of College Sexual Misconduct Policies, discussed best practices that adults with ASD can use to avoid being inadvertently accused of sexual misconduct.

If you are presently a student at a college or university, it is likely that you have heard discussions about campus sexual misconduct. The purpose of the below article is to help students with a diagnosis of Asperger’s or autism who believe they may have been the victim of campus sexual misconduct but are uncertain of  the rights they are entitled to at their school or how to utilize their school’s misconduct proceedings.

****The following does not apply to emergency situations; if you have been the victim of a violent sexual act, call 911 or your campus police ASAP. The information below is not intended to assist a student in an immediate crisis. Rather, it is to assist a student who is unclear about whether or not conduct which occurred to him/her is a violation of campus sexual misconduct policies.

  1. Review Your School’s Policies: It is important to be familiar with the policies and procedures which govern sexual misconduct at your school. Go to the website of your school’s Title IX office and read the information which govern your school’s campus’ sexual misconduct policies. All schools have detailed instructions on who to contact if you believe you have been the victim of sexual misconduct. They also have detailed policies on the process involved in investigating campus sexual misconduct and how they can protect you as a victim. Make sure that you understand what type of behavior is considered misconduct and what will happen if you report it as such.
  2. Mandatory Reporters: Understand that nearly all schools have designated mandatory reporters or as they are often called “responsible employees.” These are people who are obligated to report campus sexual misconduct to the Title IX office or appropriate Dean as soon as they become aware of it, regardless of whether or not they have your consent to report it. Once this person makes a report, it is likely that the Title IX Office will want to speak with you and possibly open an investigation.  At most schools, it is not uncommon for nearly all administrators, employees and/or resident advisors to be considered mandatory reporters. You should review your school’s sexual misconduct policies to be certain who at your school is a mandatory reporter. If you are uncertain about whether or not you want to proceed with a formal investigation, you may want to consider speaking with someone who your school designates as a “confidential employee”. A confidential employee is usually a mental health counselor, medical professional or clergy person. Most schools do not mandate that employees who work in these fields report an instance of sexual misconduct because communications with them may be considered privileged. Again, to determine who at your school is considered a confidential employee, you should review your school’s sexual misconduct policies.
  3. Reporting the Misconduct: An allegation of sexual misconduct can be reported by a school administrator, a mandatory reporter, the alleged victim or a third party student on behalf of the alleged victim. Understand that once the Title IX office becomes aware there is an allegation of campus sexual misconduct, the it will be obligated to investigate, regardless of whether or not you want them to proceed. Similarly, once the school makes the determination to open an investigation or proceed with a sexual misconduct hearing, a request by you to end it will not necessarily be granted. The school has the right to open an investigation and continue with a sexual misconduct proceeding, even if you decide not to cooperate. Most schools state this in their Title IX/campus sexual misconduct policies. If you are uncertain whether you want to report campus sexual misconduct, reach out to family, a trusted friend, an off-campus therapist, or someone on campus who is considered a confidential employee (see item 2).  You may also want to consider speaking with someone from AANE (adult.services@aane.org), Students Advocating for Students (sa4s.org) or another organization which is familiar with individuals with a diagnosis of Asperger’s or autism so they can give you support which is specific to your diagnosis.
  4. Revealing Your Diagnosis To Obtain Support On Campus: If you choose to report an incident, strongly consider revealing to your school administrators and/or the Title IX office that you have a diagnosis of Asperger’s or autism. It is extremely important that they know you have this diagnosis so that they can give you the proper accommodations during the misconduct proceedings. Some examples of accommodations include extensions on classwork, referral to on-campus resources for emotional support, or a no contact order against the alleged accuser. If you are already registered with your school’s Office of Disability Services, you should also consider alerting them as to what is occurring with the Title IX Office, so they can help get you services and support that are in accordance with your disability. Unless you give permission for the Office of Disability Services to become involved or notified, the Title IX Office will most likely not involve them.  Both offices will keep any information you choose to reveal about your disability confidential. Keep in mind that the supports you receive from the Office of Disability Services for academic purposes may not be the appropriate type of supports for a sexual misconduct proceeding. If you think that you need different or additional accommodations, you will need to advocate for this or contact someone from outside of the school to help you advocate for the accommodations.. The individuals in the Title IX Office are most likely not experienced in working with students with Asperger’s or autism, so do not assume that they will inherently know what types of supports you may need.
  5. Obtaining Proper Support From Off-Campus Resources: Being a victim of sexual misconduct can be traumatic, and you may feel like you need support from resources off-campus. Do not ignore these feelings. You do not have to go through this alone. Speak with your family and friends. If you feel like you need more support than they can offer, look at your school’s Title IX website. There is usually a list of resources available to victims of campus sexual misconduct. These resources can include medical, legal, and emotional support. However, there is a possibility that the resources offered do not include support specific to someone with a diagnosis of Asperger’s or autism. If you want to speak with someone who has expertise in how to support a student with Asperger’s or autism, you may want to consider contacting the following organizations:
    1. The Asperger’s/Autism Network (aane.org)  (adult.services@aane.org)
    2. Students Advocating for Students (sa4s.org)
    3. Autism Speaks (autismspeaks.org)
    4. Autism Society of America (autism-society.org)

The above information is not meant to be an exhaustive list. You may be involved in a situation or have a question that is not addressed in this article. If you have questions or need support, please reach out to family, a trusted friend, a school administrator or one of the resources listed above. You do not have to go through this alone.

Submitted by:
Lori B. Tucker, Esq. (https://www.ltuckerlaw.com) &
Jake Goldberg, President & Founder of Students Advocating for Students (https://www.sa4s.org)

**Important Disclaimer: The information presented in this article is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Reading this article does not create an attorney-client relationship. This article is strictly written for educational purposes to generally educate students about campus sexual misconduct policies.**