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  • Writer's pictureGEOC WSU

GEOC Supports Survivor-Centered, Evidence-Based Reporting Policies

GEOC wishes to express its support for the Open Letter to the US Secretary of Education & Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights from the Academic Alliance for Survivor Choice and Autonomy (ASC). This open letter includes recommendations for survivor-centered, evidence-based reporting policies.

As graduate students we are in a unique position when it comes to supporting survivors of sexual violence. Our students often feel more comfortable coming to us than faculty or staff about experiences of sexual violence, especially when it is affecting their grades or course work. We strive to be trustworthy advocates for our students and to support them whatever comes their way. Blanket mandated reporting forces us to violate that trust. Policies such as blanket mandated reporting, known at Wayne State as “Responsible Employees,” require us to report instances of violence to the university that our students confide in us, even when they want us to keep their stories private. Although these policies appear on the surface to be supportive, they strip survivors of their autonomy and put marginalized survivors at increased risk. When we are required to report to the Title IX Office against the survivor’s will, we are put in the position of being untrustworthy and therefore unsafe resources for our students.

Graduate students are also at unique risk for sexual harassment because of their position as both students and employees. Graduate students may not want to report to Title IX out of fear of retaliation, harm to their reputation, risk of victim blame or disbelief, and reliving their trauma over and over again. Although reporting can be a means of getting accountability, many universities, including Wayne State, do not have proper support services for survivors beyond investigating (e.g., confidential survivor advocates, culturally-competent policies or resources, evidence-based prevention efforts). These added risks may outweigh benefits for some survivors, leaving them to avoid reporting. Those of us who have experienced sexual violence may want to confide in our fellow graduate workers or trusted faculty members, but cannot because of blanket mandated reporting policies.

GEOC maintains that trauma-informed, culturally competent, and evidence-based Title IX reporting policies are in the best interest of our membership and graduate workers generally. GEOC stands with ASC, and urges the Biden Administration to:

  • Adopt a discloser-centered reporting policy that removes employee mandatory reporting requirements in cases where the survivor does not want to report to the Title IX Office

  • Mandate trauma-informed training for faculty and staff on how to respond to survivor disclosures of sexual and dating violence (e.g., supportive listening, referrals)

  • Allow survivors to receive supportive measures and accommodations from a variety of sources on campus, not just the Title IX Office (e.g., confidential victim advocacy centers on campus)

  • Ensure that there are clear exceptions in any mandatory reporting policy (e.g., public awareness events, social media posts, academic classes and work products, hiring and admissions process, research study participation, campus climate surveys, assaults that occurred prior to university enrollment or employment)

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