The explained rights are established and implemented in conjunction with the Westminster College Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures, which includes informal procedures for counseling and mediation and formal complaint procedures. Information pertaining to the College’s Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures can be found in the Westminster College Handbook for Students.
Common Reactions to Sexual Violence
Stage 1: The Initial Shock or Acute Stage
- Victims experience a sense of crisis, loss of control, confusion and a sense of unreality. The victim may feel a great deal of confusion and have a hard time make decisions.
- Different response styles are possible: an individual may be very expressive (crying, easily startled, “hyperalert”, “hysterical”) or withdrawn (numb, disconnected, quiet, no obvious emotion) or some combination.
Stage 2: The Denial or Pseudo-Adjustment Stage
- Attempts to go on with life “as usual.” Victims want to forget the assault.
- Victims do not usually seek help during this stage.
- You cannot force anyone out of the denial stage, nor should you try. This is an effective way of dealing with trauma temporarily. You might let the victim know that sooner or later the event will resurface. Communicate that this is a normal reaction and that there are resources ready to help whenever they need/want them.
Stage 3: Reactivation or Decompensation Stage (“Life falls apart”)
- This phase is usually triggered by some event that stirs up memories associated with the assault.
- In this stage, the real problems start to surface and victims are likely to seek help from friends, family and advocates. This can be confusing for family and friends who were under the impression that they were over the sexual assault.
- Victims may experience depression, suicidal ideation, feelings of guilt, shame, helplessness or confusion. They may experience academic and relationship difficulties, physical symptoms (headaches, gastric problems), nightmares, flashbacks and changes in eating and sleeping patterns.
Stage 4: The Anger Stage
- When the victim begins to acknowledge the fact that they had no control over what happened and they let go of some of their self-blame, they may begin to experience intense feelings of fear, anger and rage. The victim may be angry at everyone except the perpetrator because they are the “least safe target” for the victim’s anger.
- This stage also usually involves a grieving process: victims may begin to identify their personal losses and start to face the pain around those issues.
Stage 5: The Integration Stage
- The assault and the events surrounding it are viewed as significant life experiences integrated among other experiences. The event becomes part of the past and is gradually acknowledged as an event that continues to impact who the survivor is.
Remember that sexual assault happens in all communities. Male survivors, survivors of color, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered survivors all experience similar reactions to those described above. However, they are also likely struggling with the additional burdens of stereotypes, racism, homophobia and other oppressions, often leaving them feeling even more isolated, confused, ashamed, frightened, and less likely to seek support.
The above information provided courtesy of The Aurora Center, The University of Minnesota. For additional information about seeking help, see Westminster’s Victim of Sexual Assault handout.
If you have been the victim of sexual assault, you have several options:
Option 1 – Pursue Campus Disciplinary Charges
Report to a campus official such as the Vice President for Student Affairs or Public Safety
- You have a right to have your report investigated, this may take several days to several weeks
- A public warning may be issued to keep your campus safe. Your name and info will be kept confidential and you will be notified
- Local Law enforcement may be involved if reported to Campus Public Safety, it is still your decision on direction the investigation proceeds
- Ask campus personnel to be sure a "no Contact" order for campus is in place.
- Report forwarded to the Student Affairs Office, which is responsible for student discipline.
- Office responsible for disciplinary action follows up
Conduct hearing may take place
- You are entitled to have the same support as the accused to have a support person present as the accused.
- If the accused is found responsible, then appropriate sanctions will be determined. You and the accused are notified of the outcome and any sanctions.
Option 2 – Pursue Criminal Charges
- If you would like their assistance Campus personnel will assist you in reporting to campus or local law enforcement
- Ask campus personnel to be sure a "no contact" order for campus is in place.
- An anonymous warning may be issued.
- Investigation is conducted by WC Public Safety or New Wilmington Police Department
- Investigation is forwarded to Lawrence County District Attorney for possible prosecution.
- Prosecution occurs in the criminal courts
Option 3 – Pursue both College and Criminal Charges
- Process of Option 1 and 2 occur simultaneously. Institutional and Criminal adjudication process occur independently, college should not refuse to act while awaiting outcome of criminal case.
Option 4 – Report Assault but Choose not to Pursue Charges
- If you wish to have a "no contact" order in place, you should request through Student Affairs. An institutional "no contact" order is for campus only. In some situations you may be able to obtain a protective order that extends off campus through a local court.
- Anonymous warning may be issued.
- Counseling and support services are still available and encouraged.
- In cases where an alleged victim of sexual harassment, sexual assault or other Title IX violations chooses not to serve as a complainant in a formal judicial hearing, the college may act as a complainant when there exists a concern for the safety and welfare of the campus community or community at large. In such cases, the college will afford to the alleged victim all of the rights customarily afforded to a complainant. If an alleged victim wishes not to serve as complainant, s/he may nevertheless act as a witness in a College Judicial Board or Administrative hearing.
If you Choose to Pursue Campus Disciplinary Charges
In cases involving violations of Title IX, specifically alleged acts of sexual misconduct, in certain instances the College affords the accuser and the accused the opportunity to enter into a sanction resolution process. This process is outlined, below.
The College’s Title IX Coordinator will review the Incident Report received by the College. S/he will decide if the allegations meet the minimum criteria necessary that would warrant college intervention and/or judicial action. If the investigation outcome warrants a judicial response from the College, the Title IX Coordinator will meet with the Student Affairs Judicial Hearing Officer to review the case and discuss the hearing/resolution process.
The Hearing Officer will meet with the accuser to inform him/her of the receipt of the Incident Report and to inform the student of the judicial process. This would include that:
- the College is proceeding with disciplinary action against the accused;
- the accused would (1) receive a charge letter, (2) meet in a pre-hearing conference with the Hearing Officer to discuss his/her due process rights and responsibilities, and (3) review all options for appeal;
- there is an informal resolution process that would be available to both parties. Specifically, if the accused admits responsibility to the alleged charges and wishes to forgo the formal judicial process, the Hearing Officer would preside over a process whereby both parties would negotiate (either together or independently) an appropriate disciplinary sanction. This process is intended to minimize any further emotional distress that a formal disciplinary process can create as well as to expedite the College’s response to such critical matters. It also allows both parties the opportunity to be a part of the solution by permitting them to modify and agree upon, with conditions, the sanctions recommended by the College; and,
- if the accused in the pre-hearing conference with the Hearing Officer would deny any of the charges, the Hearing Officer would refer the case to the College’s formal judicial process. The Hearing Officer would then inform the accused of his/her right to have either the Hearing Officer or Judicial Board hear the case. The Hearing Officer or Board would adjudicate the case and determine responsibility and recommend sanction(s) per the College’s judicial system protocol as outlined in the Handbook for Students, including all rights to an appeal.
If the accused accepts responsibility for all or, in the opinion of the Hearing Officer, a significant component of the allegation(s), the Hearing Officer will offer to both the accused and accuser the option of the “informal resolution” process. In which case, the Hearing Officer’s sole responsibility would be to propose a disciplinary sanction(s). The Hearing Officer would communicate the available range of sanctions to both the accuser and accused. If all parties agree to a joint resolution process, the Hearing Officer would convene a meeting with all parties to negotiate a final sanction(s) determination. If the students wish to meet separately, the Hearing Officer would meet with each student individually to facilitate the process and communicate with both parties.
If the Hearing Officer is agreeable to the final recommended sanctions of both students, the sanction(s) would become final and the accused must accept them. This is a one-time process, with no right to appeal. If an agreement cannot be made by all parties, including the Hearing Officer, the informal resolution process would be concluded and the case would be referred to the College’s formal judicial process.
Advocacy & Training
Campus Advocacy Resources and Education
Westminster College, under the aegis of its Sexual Assault Task Force, provides ongoing training to faculty, students and staff who wish to serve as Sexual Harassment and Violence Advisors. Advisors are available on campus throughout the academic year to provide advice, counsel and referral assistance for victims of sexual violence and/or harassment. SAFE Advisor information can be found in the Sexual Assault Task Force Advisors (SAFE) List.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
The College provides ongoing training and educational workshops to the campus community on sexual harassment. Additional information about the College’s sexual assault response protocol can be found in the Sexual Assault Task Force (SAFE) Manual.