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Sexual Assault Prevention and Response

Updated January 12, 2017

The University at Buffalo is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for our students and other members of the university community

For many years, UB has had prevention, response and awareness programs, policies and practices in place to address complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and we have adjusted them over time to make them more effective and assure that they comport with applicable laws, regulations and agency guidance.

In addition, UB has a well-trained judicial affairs office and a well-trained police department with extensive experience in conducting trauma-informed investigations and hearings.

New York State "Enough is Enough" legislation and SUNY Policies on Sexual Violence Prevention and Response

In 2013, SUNY campuses entered into an agreement with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education to ensure compliance with Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and improve the response by SUNY and its state-operated campuses to reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence.

In December 2014, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that SUNY has adopted a uniform sexual assault prevention and response policy for SUNY campuses. The SUNY-wide policy addresses sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and stalking. Pursuant to a SUNY Board of Trustees Resolution, a Working Group of SUNY system and campus representatives, plus outside advocates, developed the policy, which is among the most comprehensive in the nation. 

UB's vice president for University Life and Services and the UB associate counsel served on the SUNY Working Group that developed the policy. UB's Options for Confidentially Disclosing Sexual Violence is the basis for the SUNY policy on Options for Confidentially Disclosing Sexual Violence.  The Students’ Bill of Rights, incorporated in the SUNY policy and now mandatory across New York State, was also based on a policy developed at UB.

On July 7, 2015, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the “Enough is Enough” legislation extending the preventive policy and protections adopted by SUNY campuses to all university campuses statewide.  According to Sharon Nolan-Weiss, director of UB’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Title IX coordinator, most of the actions and recommendations outlined in the new SUNY policies and Enough is Enough legislation were already in place at UB.  UB is fully in compliance with the "Enough is Enough" legislation.

Requirements of SUNY Policies on Sexual Violence Prevention and Response

Definition of Affirmative Consent

UB Rules and Regulations requires affirmative consent.  Consent is clear, knowing and voluntary. Consent is active, not passive. Silence, in and of itself, cannot be interpreted as consent.  UB addresses affirmative consent in its policy and educational material including the  UB Student Code of Conduct and UB Administrative Hearing Procedures and Title IX/Sexual Misconduct Addendum.

  • Sexual violence refers to physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person’s will or where a person is incapable of giving consent due to the victim’s use of drugs or alcohol. An individual also may be unable to give consent due to an intellectual or other disability. A number of different acts fall into the category of sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion. All such acts of sexual violence are forms of sexual harassment covered under Title IX.
  • Sexual assault is any sexual act committed against a person without their consent. Consent is a voluntary, verbal agreement between equal and unimpaired partners, without coercion.

Policy for Alcohol and/or Drug Use Amnesty in Sexual Violence Cases

UB has a Good Samaritan policy addressing alcohol and/or drug use amnesty in sexual violence cases. UB encourages bystander intervention through education with information on how to assist a sexual assault survivor.

Campus Climate Assessment Policy

In the fall of 2016, the University at Buffalo was one of five State University of New York schools to pilot the SUNY Campus Climate Survey.  All UB students, faculty and staff were invited to provide information that will advise and inform our campus sexual assault prevention and response efforts.  

Sexual Violence Students' Bill of Rights

UB has a Students' Bill of Rights that describes victim/survivor rights and options.

Sexual Violence Response Policy

UB describes its Sexual Violence Response Policy in accordance with our Sexual Violence Students' Bill of Rights.  

Options for Confidentially Disclosing Sexual Violence

UB developed the Options for Confidentially Disclosing Sexual Violence that was used as the basis for this SUNY policy

Student Onboarding and Ongoing Education Guide

UB offers a wide variety of online and in-person trainings on sexual harassment, sexual assault, relationship violence, bystander intervention and assisting a sexual assault survivor.  These training programs use a variety of best practices aimed at educating the entire university community, with the goal of maintaining a culture where sexual assault and acts of violence are not tolerated.

While not part of the SUNY policies, UB has also developed Guidance for Faculty and Staff, which informs UB employees how to handle a situation where a student discloses a sexual assault to them. 

FAQ

Is the university a safe environment for students?

Yes. While no area is 100 percent crime-free, universities in general are safer places than their surrounding townships and communities, and UB is no exception. UB’s crime statistics for the past three years show no cases of murder or manslaughter, only 11 cases of aggravated assault on campus and only 4 robberies. Given the fact that UB is host to more than 40,000 students and employees each year, we can say that these percentages are extremely low.

With that said, one area where we have to be extremely vigilant is the prevention of student sexual assaults. Over the past three years, there have been 24 reported forcible sexual assaults; 17 of these occurred in residence halls. While the reported numbers are still low percentages compared to the overall number of UB students, we need to be concerned because the profile of college sexual assault is unique to college campuses and is different from what is generally thought of as “sexual assault” in our larger culture. We need to understand that sexual assault is generally underreported and that these numbers likely do not reflect the full extent of sexual assault on campus. These are generally not “stranger assaults”:  between 85 and 90 percent of sexual assault victims know the perpetrator of the sexual assault. All campus environments carry risk factors for student-on-student sexual assaults and UB has been actively employing training, educational programs, bystander awareness and effective response mechanisms to promote the safety of our students.

What does UB do to protect and assist students, faculty and staff?

UB has a well-trained judicial affairs office and a well-trained police department that are knowledgeable about student issues and have trauma-informed training. We have great people who care and who are making considerable efforts to handle cases correctly and in a manner that respects all students’ rights. We have a great cross-functional team that interfaces well. We have been doing things well, and we can always be doing more.

UB also has Sexual Harassment Information Advisors in each unit — unit-level contacts who may be more familiar to a person within a unit and are well-trained and well-versed in the policies, regulations and procedures. The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion provided training to our Sexual Harassment Information Advisors to increase their awareness of the issue.

The UB Personal Safety Committee, founded in 1991, examines campus-wide safety and security issues. It meets every month to review campus safety and security issues, and to make recommendations to university leadership. The meetings are open and all members of the university community are encouraged to speak with their representatives or address the committee directly with their safety concerns.  Additionally, UB’s Violence Prevention Team, a subcommittee of the Personal Safety Committee, has been in place for several years and focuses specifically on developing and implementing strategies for campus sexual assault prevention.

UB Wellness Education Services provides a number of training programs, outreach and awareness campaigns to combat campus sexual assault and to support survivors. Key among these are bystander-intervention training programs.  Freshmen often are targeted at universities. While most people want to do the right thing, they may not know that it is acceptable to intervene or how to intervene. We want to encourage to people to do the right thing in those situations and give them the tools to know how to safely intervene.

What new awareness and preventions programs are in place?

For many years, UB has had prevention and awareness programs, policies and practices in place to deal with complaints of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and we have adjusted them over time to make them more effective and assure that they comport with applicable laws, regulations and agency guidance. 

In addition to mandatory online training in sexual assault prevention, UB introduced a live performance show, Sex Signals, to incoming freshmen as a way to understand and challenge societal messaging that may lead to sexual assault, in a supportive environment.   Sex Signals combines improvisational comedy, education and audience participation; provides a provocative, in-your-face look at issues surrounding dating, sex, and date rape on college campuses; explores how mixed messages, gender role stereotypes, and unrealistic fantasies contribute to misunderstandings between the sexes; and challenges students to provide solutions that will better improve communications in interpersonal relationships.  Recognizing that Sex Signals addresses difficult issues, we offered options for students at the onset for stepping out if needed, offered several options for support, and had UB Counseling Services staff on hand to speak with students as needed.  The program’s learning objectives are to provide a definition of active consent, unpack the importance and necessity of consent, explain the intersection of alcohol and sexual assault, frame rape as a moral issue, encourage the importance of bystander intervention, deconstruct the impact of rape on the victim (and the community), and debunk myths surrounding rape, and survivors of violence.

Awareness and prevention programming and events are held throughout the year, and students who are interested in this subject can find a wealth of information and assistance on UB's websites. UB’s outreach activities have included advertisements and articles in both the student and UB newspapers, and by email via the student listserv asking members of the university community to suggest ways the sexual harassment and sexual assaults procedures and policies can be improved.

Other awareness and prevention programming includes:

  • “Haven,” an online learning program that addresses sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking in an effort to engage and empower students to create safe, healthy campus environments.  “Haven” is mandatory for all incoming domestic undergraduate and transfer students, and is also offered to all incoming professional and graduate students.
  • “Bystander Intervention,” offered monthly during the academic year and additionally by request. This pro-social behavior and bystander intervention training raises awareness of helping behaviors, increases motivation to help and assists students in developing skills and confidence when responding to problematic situations to ensure the safety and well-being of themselves and others.
  • The UB Men’s Group is a nationally recognized, award-winning, peer-led group of men who provides training, presentations and awareness-raising events with a focus on cultivating men as allies in preventing sexual violence.
  • UB provides training at student orientations and for faculty and staff, as well as other student trainings. For example, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has mandated training for all of its faculty, staff, teaching assistants and graduate assistants on how to handle reports of sexual harassment and assault — students may feel comfortable approaching a faculty member on a sexual assault or harassment issue. The Teaching and Learning Center is including EDI as a presenter to train teaching assistants and graduate assistants to sensitize them to the issue.

Has the level of awareness at UB increased?

We feel the level of awareness of this issue has increased on a national level because of media coverage, the White House Task Force and proposed congressional legislation. This increase in focus has really become pronounced over the past four years. We are finding that students and their parents already come to campus understanding on some level that sexual assault may be an issue for college students. UB has focused on sexual assault prevention and response since 2007, when our Wellness Education Services team began addressing campus sexual assault from a public health perspective, employing a range of programming and education. We believe the increased awareness does benefit UB because sexual assault prevention needs to be everyone’s responsibility. A bystander who understands the issue may be in a position where he or she can help someone who is in a dangerous situation, or where he or she can provide the necessary support to encourage a friend to report an assault that occurred. Victims of sexual assault tend to blame themselves and question whether they were at fault for the assault. Publicizing this as a national issue can help a sexual assault victim recognize that what happened was not his or her fault, and that the victim is not alone.

One concern we have is that media coverage of schools that did not handle sexual assault situations well might have a chilling effect on victims who might fear that universities generally want to “sweep sexual assault under the rug,” or who might fear that they will be subjected to a humiliating, blaming process if they choose to report. UB has worked hard to message to survivors of sexual assault that they will not be blamed for what has happened, and has incorporated its Options for Confidentially Disclosing Sexual Violence to help survivors understand how they can get help while still maintaining control over the steps taken in response.

How does UB handle reports of sexual misconduct?

CLERY obligates any campus security authority to report serious crimes, including rape and sexual assault, that occur in campus locations.  UB also has an anonymous web form by which people can report.  How UB handles a report depends on circumstances, including whether the reporting party chooses to proceed with a criminal charge, disciplinary charge or discrimination report; whether the alleged perpetrator is a student or employee; and whether campus safety concerns obligate UB to move forward with an investigation regardless of the survivor’s willingness to file a report.  The incident may be handled by Employee Relations (employee issue), Judicial Affairs (student policy, code of conduct, regulation), Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (discrimination) or University Police (criminal).  The goal is to respect the survivor’s wishes while ensuring the safety of the UB community.

Violations of UB’s Rules and Regulations are handled by Judicial Affairs, conducted by full time staff (UBPD handles the investigation, witnesses may be called, an advocate/assistant is allowed and, if there is a finding, a penalty is imposed). The Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion handles complaints of discrimination and harassment, and also can coordinate support services and academic accommodations for a victim of sexual assault.  Criminal charges are handled by University Police.

Regardless of the channel in which the incident is originally reported, the survivor is always provided with the Students’ Bill of Rights and a list of options of how they can proceed.

  • The survivor of a sexual assault is advised of available counseling, mental health, legal and other services, both on campus and in the community. He or she is also notified of the importance of preserving evidence for proof of a criminal offence.  All survivors are encouraged to contact the University Police immediately, even if they do not wish to press criminal charges.
  • The university advises the survivor of his or her rights to notify law enforcement authorities and the university's willingness to assist in such a notification. University Police, Health Services and Counseling Services will provide a Crisis Services Sexual Assault Advocate for the survivor and female officers are available to assist at all times.
  • Students are notified that survivors have the right to change their academic and living situations and will be assisted in doing so if they choose.
  • If survivors wish to press charges, the university will arrest and charge the accused offender on campus. The accuser and the accused will have their legal rights maintained, including the same right to have others present during disciplinary hearings, and both will be informed of the outcome of any internal and external proceedings.
  • Students are informed that in the event of a sexual assault, the university will impose disciplinary sanctions up to, and including, dismissal from the university.

UB describes its Sexual Violence Response Policy in accordance with our Students’ Bill of Rights.  

What prevention and awareness programming exists at UB?

The University continues to seek to create a culture and climate where students and our community feel empowered - aware of their rights and what actions they may take. 

UB Workshops & Trainings

Haven

Required for all incoming domestic undergraduate students, Haven is an online learning platform that addresses sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking in an effort to engage and empower students to create safe, healthy campus environments. This program includes:

  • Definitions of key terms and links to campus-specific policies, procedures and state legal statutes
  • In-depth content and activities about consent
  • Interactive bystander skill- and confidence-building scenarios
  • “Red flags” activity and risk-reduction strategies, and
  • Data summaries to inform and enhance future programming specific to our student population.

SEX SIGNALS

Required for incoming freshmen, Sex Signals is a live performance-based show that incorporates audience interaction in order to understand and challenge societal messaging that may lead to sexual assault, in a supportive environment.  Learning outcomes include the importance of affirmative consent, the intersection of alcohol and sexual assault, rape as a moral issue, the importance of bystander intervention, the impact of rape on the victim (and the community), and myths surrounding rape, and survivors of violence.

How to Help a Sexual Assault Survivor

Offered monthly during the academic year and additionally by request.  This workshop is based on The Men’s Program and provides the dual benefit of educating peers on how to help someone recover from sexual assault (including medical, reporting and counseling options), as well as decreasing rape myth acceptance and self-reported likelihood of committing sexual violence.  

Bystander Intervention

Offered monthly during the academic year and additionally by request, this pro-social behavior and bystander intervention training program raises awareness of helping behaviors, increases motivation to help, and assists students in developing skills and confidence when responding to problematic situations to ensure the safety and well-being of themselves and others.

Relationship Jeopardy

Offered by-request, this workshop utilizes a fun, competitive game to educate and test students’ knowledge about healthy relationships, safer sex, sexual violence, relationship issues and more, while increasing their awareness of campus resources such as health, wellness, counseling and police services.

Gender Matters

An exploration and open discussion of gender and its relationship to how we experience life - sex, television, sports, partying, violence, relationships, health, etc. The program separates the class into groups for a peer-facilitated activity, before bringing everyone back together for an open, honest discussion where nothing is off limits.

Telling Our Story

This is a complete workshop designed for RAs, AAs and CAs to provide to their residents, especially during the first six weeks of school. The program kit includes a DVD of the play Telling Our Story that shares the real experiences of college students around a sexual assault, a facilitation guide, handouts, and evaluations.  This play was developed using the words of college sexual assault survivors, and this recording cast UB students to aid campus relatability.  

These Hands Don’t Hurt program kit

This program kit will help student leaders educate other students on the basics of understanding college violence and provides supplies for taking the pledge of non-violence with participant hand prints on a banner. Take a stand in your hall, community building or club office and create your own These Hands Don’t Hurt banner. WES provides everything you need to present the workshop yourself, including workshop outline, supplies, giveaways and evaluations.

Movie Nights program kit

Movie Night Kits include everything you need for a successful educational program. Included are a film, popcorn and discussion questions for lively conversation so you can learn more about your floor mates. Current films include: Hip Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes, Killing Us Softly, Miss Representation, and Purity Myth. New films are added each semester, so check with us for the most up-to-date selection!

Campaigns

Have you had or witnessed an Unwanted Sexual Experience?

Distribution of business-sized information cards, “Have you had an unwanted Sexual Experience.” These cards contain quick contact information and steps on how to get help and report an unwanted sexual experience.  10,000 cards distributed to residence halls, the Wellness Center and UBPD.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM)

This October campaign is designed to educate students about intimate partner violence and motivate them to strengthen healthy relationships.  It includes various events, interactive tablings and displays around campus, with a focus on ‘sorting’ relationship behaviors along the continuum of healthy/unhealthy and supporting people on the UB campuses who may be experiencing an abusive relationship.  Push to ‘go purple’ (the color of DVAM) is a media campaign included in the month.  The campaign will highlight the collection of used cell phones for ‘helplines’ for people living in abusive relationships, as well as the most needed items for Haven House (local domestic violence shelter). 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

This April campaign is designed to educate and motivate students around issues of sexual assault, and includes various events, tablings, displays around campus, with a focus on supporting survivors, and a related media push.  The campaign will collect comfort kit items for Crisis Services’ Advocates to take to hospitals.

Enough is Enough

This week-long campaign against violence is supported by NASPA.  Collaborative effort throughout Student Affairs that includes workshops and culminates in one large-scale event.  Topic of focus varies – the most recent campaign focused on bullying.

Events

Walk With Me

Unlike traditional awareness walks, Walk With Me at UB challenges all of us to walk through our usual day wearing a purple bandana as a show of support to those affected by domestic violence, and to take a stand against dating violence here at UB.  Event runs 9 a.m.  to 5 p.m. in Student Union, and includes many educational activities such as a ledge of non-violence with handprints and life-sized Relationship Monopoly.

Walk A Mile in Her Shoes

There is an old saying: “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Walk a Mile in Her Shoes asks men to literally walk one mile in women’s high-heeled shoes.  It’s not easy walking in these shoes, but it's fun and it gives the community the opportunity to talk about something that’s really difficult to talk about: gender relations and sexual violence.  This family-friendly event mobilizes the community in an out-pouring of support for survivors and raises much needed funds for Crisis Services’ Advocate Program and the work they do to help those effected by sexual violence in our community.

Know B4U Vote

This event, run by students in The Alliance, helps students get registered to vote, find their polling place or get absentee ballots, while educating them about current issues having to do with sexual violence, such as bills coming up for a vote.

Free Hugs With Consent

This ‘guerilla-style’ event sets trained peer educators loose on campus every Valentine’s Day and Sweetest Day to give their peers an opportunity to exercise choice around consent, support their peers’ decisions (including recognizing indecision) and educate about the importance of consent as an active process.

Training Student Leaders on Campus

UB Men’s Group

The Men’s Group is a nationally recognized, award-winning peer-led group of men who educate about and train the campus community on sexual violence.  This group focuses on education and advocacy for the prevention of sexual violence.

The idea behind the Men’s Group is that we can no longer view sexual violence as solely a women’s issue. Sexual violence affects everyone, including men. With this program we hope to gather men that want to make a difference and will stand as a majority against the few that are committing these horrible crimes.

Student Survivor Advocacy Alliance (The Alliance)

The Student Survivor Advocacy Alliance is a peer-run, university-facilitated group that seeks to unite survivors of sexual assault with allies here at UB and to take a stand against rape, sexual assault and intimate partner violence. 

The Alliance:

  • Provides peer support for those affected by rape, sexual assault and intimate partner violence by maintaining an open forum for survivors and allies to gain support, knowledge and resources
  • Holds monthly socials to facilitate conversation and empower individuals to take a stand against violence as well as encouraging survivors and allies to join us in advocacy and activism efforts that include:
    • Petitioning local, state and national politicians
    • Working with university officials for policy change and services
    • Organizing protests, letter writing campaigns and boycotts in response to contributors of the rape culture
    • Participate in rallies and marches on campus to raise awareness

Student Advisory Board

This student board is comprised of representatives from various student groups on campus that are invested in the issue of sexual violence.  The board meets monthly to confer on current priorities of the student population with regard to sexual violence prevention or support, and advises the university’s Violence Prevention Team (VPT), a sub-committee of the Public Safety Committee, of these priorities, while also acting as a sounding board to provide feedback on the VPT’s efforts.  

UBE 110 – Intro to Peer Education course

Offered each semester, this 2-credit course can be taken as an elective, or as part of the Health & Wellness minor. This course provides Nationally Certified Peer Education training through the lens of sexual violence prevention. This course is also a prerequisite for Men’s Group Leadership positions or internships.

STUDENT ASSOCIATIONS

UB provides in-person training to student leaders, including Student Association and Graduate Student Association clubs and activities, so that they understand the issue of sexual assault on college campuses and UB’s reporting and support resources.

UB Athletics

The Division of Athletics mandated sexual assault awareness for all student athletes, administrators and coaches to ensure that they understand the issue of sexual assault on college campuses and UB’s reporting and support resources.

Faculty/Staff Resources

Quarterly In-Service Trainings

Organized by the Violence Prevention Team to bring in experts on timely topics to train faculty and staff members.  Past topics include Stalking and Technology, Sexual Assault Response Off-Campus and Reporting Responsibilities.

Faculty Guide

Designed to promote curricular infusion of violence prevention efforts, this toolkit for faculty members provides resources that make it easy for faculty to integrate violence prevention into their lesson plans.

Don’t Cancel That Class!

A web tool that markets our violence prevention programs to faculty members as a way to fill classes when they are away at conferences.

Survivor Support

Self-Care Manual

Self-care is especially critical in the wake of trauma.  This manual provides tools and resources for assessing your self-care needs and improving your overall wellness in order to gain a more balanced life.   

Trauma Informed Yoga

Led by a specially certified yoga instructor and with the support of a counselor from UB Counseling Services, this yoga class is specially constructed to provide an environment safe for students suffering from PTSD, such as those who have survived sexual violence.