UGA Sexual Assault Response Protocol

UGA’s Sexual Assault Response (SAR) Protocol

September 2017

The University of Georgia’s Sexual Assault Response (SAR) Protocol aims to coordinate and assist UGA employees in delivering the highest quality of services to student victims/survivors of sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence.  This SAR Protocol is also intended to insure compliance with the University’s legal obligations under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (“Clery Act”) as amended by the Campus SaVE Act, and the relevant implementing regulations of each statute. The University service providers who had input into this SAR Protocol include: the Equal Opportunity Office/Title IX Coordinator (EOO), UGA Police Department, the Dean of Students Office, the Office of Student Conduct, the University Health Center including the Relationship & Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) office, the University Ombudspersons, the University Athletic Association, University Housing, and the Office of Legal Affairs.

The steps of the SAR Protocol are, in a nutshell:

  • Affirm the disclosure of sexual assault/sexual violence
  • Explain no confidentiality 
  • Ask about safety and medical concerns
  • Provide options for reporting to Police and/or the EOO/Title IX Coordinator
  • Offer a bridge to support resources
  • Fulfill your reporting obligations by contacting the EOO/Title IX Coordinator

AFFIRM THE DISCLOSURE

Listen respectfully and let the survivor know that you care.  In your own words, thank the survivor for telling you.  Express to the survivor that you are sorry that s/he experienced such an event.

Try to avoid the following:

Asking for specifics, details, or “why?”  You do not want to investigate (leave that to law enforcement or the EOO) or seem as though you are “blaming,” judging, or do not believe the survivor.

Defining the experience for the survivor.  Use the same words the survivor is using to describe the experience (e.g., “hurt,” “taken advantage of”).  The survivor may not be ready to call what happened “rape” or “sexual assault.”

Overly expressing your own feelings (e.g., “That’s outrageous!”  “I can’t believe this happened to you!”  “I am so angry someone would do that do you!”).  This may make the survivor feel worse or become concerned about having upset you and feel s/he needs to take care of you. 

Touching the survivor unless initiated by the survivor.   Unwanted touching may make the survivor feel worse. 

Exhibiting distraction.  Be present when the survivor is with you – don’t check your watch, phone, email, answer in-coming calls, etc.

EXPLAIN NO CONFIDENTIALITY

The vast majority of UGA employees (faculty and staff) have no confidentiality when a student discloses sexual assault or other sexual violence and must report any such disclosure to the EOO/Title IX Coordinator.  

A few employees at UGA have a statutory privilege of confidentiality under Georgia state law and so do not have to report to the EOO/Title IX Coordinator disclosures of sexual assault or other sexual violence received while acting within the scope of their privilege.  These employees are:

  • Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS) at the UGA Health Center
  • UGA Health Center medical clinicians
  • Counselors at UGA’s Aspire Clinic, Center for Counseling & Personal Evaluation, and Psychology Clinic
  • Attorneys or student lawyers representing clients through UGA’s Family Violence Clinic

A few employees have been designated by UGA as confidential support resources and do not have to report identifying information about the survivor to the EOO/Title IX Coordinator unless the Title IX Coordinator determines that they must provide identifying information due to overriding safety concerns for either the survivor or the University community.  These confidential support resources are:

  • Relationship & Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) employees at UGA’s Health Center
  • Student Care and Outreach employees in the UGA Dean of Students Office
  • UGA Ombudspersons

All other UGA employees should promptly report to the EOO/Title IX Coordinator all information known about disclosed incidents of sexual assault or other sexual violence.  

Responsible employees (i.e., employees whom a student could reasonably believe to be in a position of authority, including, without limitation, all faculty, instructors, administrators, supervisors, residential assistants, and graduate teaching assistants) MUST promptly report to the EOO/Title IX Coordinator all information known about disclosed incidents of sexual assault or other sexual violence.  Failure to promptly report can result in discipline.  A report to the EOO/Title IX Coordinator can be made in any of the following ways:

Reporting includes relaying to the EOO/Title IX Coordinator any request by the survivor for confidentiality/anonymity or no-investigation.  The EOO/Title IX Coordinator will take into consideration such requests when determining what follow-up action by the University is necessary to remedy the effects of sexual violence and prevent its recurrence. Honoring a survivor's request for confidentiality/anonymity or no-investigation may limit the University's ability to investigate the incident or discipline a responsible assailant.  Additionally, it may not be possible to honor a survivor's request for confidentiality/anonymity or no-investigation in situations including, but not limited to, the following: where there is more than one report against the same alleged assailant; where more than one alleged assailant was involved in the same assault; where a weapon was involved; where the alleged assailant is a University employee; or where the incident occurred at a University-affiliated function or event. Where the reported facts require the EOO/Title IX Coordinator to investigate and that investigation will necessitate disclosing the survivor's identity to the alleged assailant and possibly others involved, the survivor will be informed before any investigative action is taken. 

Where a survivor requests confidentiality/anonymity or no-investigation of reported facts that constitute a crime that must be reported pursuant to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (“Clery Act”), an anonymous data form will be submitted to the UGA Police.  The anonymous data form does not contain any identifying information about the survivor.   

MEDICAL & SAFETY CONCERNS

Inquire about immediate safety concerns (e.g., does the survivor live with or regularly interact with the respondent; has the respondent threatened future harm to the survivor).  If these concerns exist, contact law enforcement at 911 or UGA’s Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention office (706.542.SAFE) to develop a safety plan.  Both are available 24-hours/7 days a week.  Additionally, if the alleged assailant is a member of the University community, the Equal Opportunity Office can institute appropriate interim protective measures if the survivor desires.  This can include, for example, issuing a no-contact order to the alleged assailant(s) and letting him/her/them know that retaliation can be a separate basis for disciplinary action; or facilitating changes to the alleged assailant(s)’ or survivor's University housing assignment or to their class or work schedules to minimize/eliminate contact between the survivor and alleged assailant. 

Inquire about the survivor’s need for medical treatment (e.g., physical injury, emergency contraception, treatment for possible sexually transmitted infections).  Offer to help connect the survivor with medical care providers.  A list of medical providers in the Athens, Georgia area, which includes various clinics at the University Health Center as well as local hospitals is available at: UGA Campus Resources (https://eoo.uga.edu/node/128).  If there is a medical emergency, call 911.

Inquire if the survivor is interested in a Sexual Assault Nurse Examination (SANE).  This free exam can be performed within 120 hours (5 days) of the reported assault to collect forensic evidence (rape kit).  The survivor does not have to make a police report to have the exam conducted and there is no charge for the exam.  Once the evidence is collected, the survivor can decide later if s/he wants the evidence to be processed.  A SANE exam can be arranged by contacting any of the following resources: the University Health Center, the UGA Relationship & Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) office, UGA Police, The Cottage Sexual Assault Center, Athens-Clarke County Police, or local hospitals (Athens Regional or St. Mary’s).  Contact information for these service providers is available at: UGA Campus Resources (https://eoo.uga.edu/node/128).

EXPLAIN REPORTING OPTIONS

Ask if the survivor wants to make a report to law enforcement and offer to assist or accompany the survivor to do so, or offer to arrange for an advocate from RSVP or The Cottage Sexual Assault Center to accompany the survivor to make a report to law enforcement.  Making a report to law enforcement does not commit the survivor to having the alleged assailant notified of the report, having an investigation conducted, or to pressing charges.  Those decisions can be made at a later point.  It is the survivor’s choice whether to report to law enforcement UNLESS: (1) there is an immediate safety threat present, or (2) the survivor is under the age of 18.  Thus, while UGA employees should, and in most cases must, report disclosures of sexual assault and sexual violence to the EOO/Title IX Coordinator, they should not contact law enforcement without the survivor’s consent.  

Ask if the survivor wants to make a report to the EOO/Title IX Coordinator to initiate a Title IX investigation by the University to determine if there has been a violation by a University community member of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents' Student Sexual Misconduct Policy (https://eoo.uga.edu/policies/student-sexual-misconduct-policy) or UGA’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment (NDAH) Policy (http://eoo.uga.edu/policies/non-discrimination-anti-harassment-policy).  

Explain to the survivor that Title IX, the NDAH Policy, and the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy prohibit retaliation for the survivor’s making or being associated with a report to the EOO/Title IX Coordinator and that the University will promptly take interim protective measures to protect the survivor from retaliation (e.g., issuing a no-contact order to the alleged assailant(s) and letting him/her/them know that retaliation can provide a separate basis for disciplinary action; facilitating changes to the alleged assailant(s)’ or survivor's University housing assignment or class or work schedules to minimize/eliminate contact, etc.).  

Explain that you will have to inform the EOO/Title IX Coordinator of the disclosed sexual assault or other sexual violence but allow the survivor the option of making a direct report to the EOO/Title IX Coordinator and offer to assist the survivor in making a report if they wish to.  Reports can be made in any of the following ways:

In the case of an in-person meeting, the survivor may have an advisor or support person of their choice present with them, as well as up to two (2) family members.  

Explain that if the survivor wants to remain confidential or anonymous, or does not want the EOO/Title IX Coordinator to conduct an investigation, you will relay (or the survivor can relay) this information when informing the EOO/Title IX Coordinator of the sexual assault or other sexual violence.  Explain that honoring a request for confidentiality/anonymity or no-investigation may limit the University's ability to investigate the incident and discipline a responsible assailant.  

Reporting to law enforcement and the EOO/Title IX Coordinator are not mutually exclusive options.  A survivor can report to one, both or neither (although Responsible Employees must report to the EOO/Title IX Coordinator).  However, investigations conducted by law enforcement and the EOO/Title IX Coordinator are separate and independent of one another.

Caveats about EOO/Title IX investigations:

  • The EOO/Title IX Coordinator, and his or her designees, are not advocates for, and do not represent, either the survivor or the alleged assailant.
  • No information about the incident or investigation will be shared with parents of students, or third parties unrelated to the investigation, absent written permission from the subject student(s).  This is pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
  • Amnesty: No information concerning any student's underage drinking or illegal drug use that is revealed to the EOO/Title IX Coordinator in the course of a sexual assault/sexual violence report or investigation will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct or voluntarily reported to law enforcement.  
  • EOO/Title IX investigations apply the preponderance-of-the-evidence standard  (i.e., “more likely than not”).  This is a lower standard of evidence than beyond-a-reasonable-doubt, which is used in criminal prosecutions.
  • An EOO/Title IX investigator will conduct interviews with all relevant parties and witnesses and obtain and review other information relevant to the reported sexual assault/sexual violence.  
  • If the sexual assault/sexual violence was reportedly perpetrated by a UGA student, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents' Student Sexual Misconduct Policy governs.  
  • If the sexual assault/sexual violence was reportedly perpetrated by a non-student UGA Community member, UGA’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment (NDAH) Policy governs.  
  • Consequences if a violation of the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy or the NDAH Policy is found may include: termination; expulsion; suspension; temporary or permanent separation of the parties; required participation in sexual or relationship sensitivity training/awareness education programs; required participation in alcohol and other drug awareness and abuse prevention programs; counseling or mentoring; volunteering/community service; loss of institutional privileges; delays in obtaining administrative services and benefits; additional academic requirements relating to scholarly work or research on sexual misconduct; financial restitution; or other discretionary sanctions directly related to the violation or conduct.

OFFER A BRIDGE TO SUPPORT RESOURCES

If a student discloses that s/he has experienced sexual violence or assault, always provide referrals to counseling and support resources, even if the incident(s) occurred in the past (even years ago).  Information about various resources for students at UGA’s Athens and Griffin Campuses is available at: UGA Campus Resources (https://eoo.uga.edu/node/128).  UGA’s Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Office (RSVP) will endeavor to provide support to University community members outside of Athens and Griffin who have experienced sexual or relationship violence via email, telephone and or Skype.  RSVP can be reached 24 hours a day at (706) 542-7233 (HELP). 

Also, for remote locations, consult with your UGA program director or administrator, human resources personnel, or student support professional to identify local support resources.

FULFILL YOUR REPORTING OBLIGATION

Make a timely report to the UGA EOO/Title IX Coordinator in any of the following ways:

You must report all known information about the sexual assault or other sexual violence and relay any requests by the survivor for confidentiality/anonymity or no-investigation. 

Where a survivor has requested confidentiality/anonymity or no-investigation, and there is no immediate safety threat, and the survivor is 18 years or older, you are not required to disclose information about the survivor’s identity to any other UGA office or official (apart from the EOO/Title IX Coordinator), or to any third party, without the survivor’s consent. You also should not contact law enforcement unless the survivor requests you to do so.  

If you have questions about this SAR Protocol, please contact the EOO/Title IX Coordinator at (706) 542-7912 or ugaeoo@uga.edu