Frequently Asked Questions about Reporting Sexual Assault

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What options are available if I have been sexually assaulted?

Options include reporting the assault as a crime, filing campus judicial charges, both, or neither.  Unless there is a threat to you or the wider UB community, the choice of how to proceed will be yours.  Regardless of whether you choose to proceed with criminal or campus charges, the University will provide accommodations.  These accommodations may include relocation of housing, counseling support, academic accommodations, and other assistance to ensure that you get the support you need.

In certain situations involving a threat to safety, UB may be obligated to proceed with an investigation regardless of a victim's willingness to proceed.  In order to allow for a better understanding of which resources are completely confidential and the circumstances where UB might have to proceed with an investigation, we developed a resource called Options for Confidentially Disclosing Sexual Violence. This resource is intended to ensure that you can gain information, support and options while maintaining complete control over how your situation will be handled.

 

It has been a while since the assault happened, and I never had a medical exam or a rape kit. Can I still report the assault?

Yes.  You can still report the assault to UPD, to pursue criminal charges, judicial charges, or both.  Regardless of when you were sexually assaulted, you are entitled to accommodations such as counseling services and academic accommodations.

Reporting a Crime

I want to file criminal charges. Where can I start?

The University Police Department can help you to file criminal charges.  A UPD representative will listen to what has happened to you and will provide options for proceeding.  Even if the assault occurred off-campus, UPD can help you connect with the appropriate local authorities to file a criminal complaint.  University Police Officers are highly trained professional police officers. They possess full state authority to enforce all state and local laws and University regulations. 

For many people, the idea of reporting to the police can be intimidating.  Victims may fear that they will be blamed for the assault, or questioned about whether they'd been drinking or what they were wearing.  Please be assured that UPD has extensive experience and training in talking with sexual assault survivors, and they understand how important it is for their interview with you to be a comfortable experience.  Under UB's Students' Bill of Rights, you have a right to have your concerns taken seriously, and to be free from any suggestion that you are at fault for what happened.

If you would like a different avenue of support and assistance, you can also receive assistance from a Crisis Services advocate. This confidential resource will give you help and support as you decide how to proceed, and can assist with reporting the matter as a crime.  You should not have to feel alone, and Crisis Services is an excellent resource for support.  

What happens if I file criminal charges?

University Police can proceed with your report, which may include contacting the local police in the jurisdiction where the assault occurred for off-campus incidents.  University Police and/or the local police may refer the situation to the district attorney's office, which will decide whether to proceed with charges.  The criminal proceeding is separate from any University proceeding, and UB does not have control over the timeframe for the criminal case or the district attorney's decision regarding whether the case will go forward.

You have a right to accommodations while the criminal case is pending.  These include measures to separate the parties, changes in housing and academic accommodations.  In cases where there may be a danger to campus, UB's Office of Student Conduct and Advocacy may issue a temporary suspension and proceed to a disciplinary hearing under UB's Rules and Regulations.

Campus Charges

Rape is a serious crime. Why do UB and other schools hear sexual assault cases?

Rape is a serious crime, and victims have the right to file a report with University Police and/or the local police jurisdiction where the rape occurred in order to start the criminal process.  Contact information for reporting is listed in UB's Sexual Violence Response Policy.  

In addition to being a crime, sexual assault in any form violates UB's Rules and Regulations.  Proceeding with a criminal charge may take months or years, and in some cases, a district attorney's office may decide there is not enough evidence to prosecute the matter as a crime.  In the meantime, UB may be on notice that there is a potential threat to campus, and a victim of rape may choose to leave school rather than to see his or her assailant on campus while a criminal case is pending.  Research shows that assailants are often repeat offenders.  If a school does not act on a report of rape, it may be placing other members of the UB community at risk.

For these reasons, the United States Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague Letter on April 4, 2011 that clarified for schools our obligation to promptly investigate situations where we are on notice of a sexual assault.  Under Title IX, schools are required to ensure that students are not in an ongoing hostile environment.  We are required to hear cases of sexual assault as violations of our Rules and Regulations under a "preponderance of the evidence" standard.  This is a lower standard of proof than the criminal "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard.  Under this standard, a party will be found responsible if the evidence shows it is more likely than not that he or she is responsible for sexual assault.  Schools are not permitted to wait for the outcome of a criminal case before proceeding with campus charges, and must hear the case in a prompt manner - in most cases, within sixty days.

Finally, it is important to understand that rape is not the only crime that violates UB's Rules and Regulations.  UB also handles drug offenses, DWIs, assault and battery, and similar crimes through our judicial system, regardless of whether the matter is being prosecuted criminally.  If someone were to commit armed robbery on campus, be released on bail and attempt to resume classes, UB would be required to suspend the student and hold a hearing in order to protect the safety of campus and provide due process to the accused.  There is no reason to give victims of sexual assault less protection through our judicial process than we do victims of other crimes.

How do I file campus judicial charges against a UB student?

You can contact the University Police Department to initiate criminal charges, campus judicial charges, or both.  With your permission, University Police will forward the report to the Office of Student Conduct and Advocacy.  Student Conduct and Advocacy will meet with you to discuss the process and any accommodations you might need moving forward.  A hearing will be scheduled at a date and time that accommodates both the reporting party and the accused party.

How does UB handle sexual assault charges against UB employees?

UB takes sexual assault charges against our faculty and staff extremely seriously.  Our employees are entrusted with the welfare of our students.  Any sexual misconduct will result in disciplinary proceedings.

Most UB faculty and staff are unionized, which means that UB has to follow disciplinary procedures under the unions' collective bargaining agreements.  The disciplinary process is handled through UB's Office of Employee Relations.  Employee Relations will conduct an investigation and propose sanctions which could include suspension and termination.  An accused employee has the right to grieve the proposed penalty, and this may ultimately result in a hearing.  You will have the right to determine the degree to which you are comfortable participating in any disciplinary proceeding.   

I've been accused of sexual assault and notified that a hearing will be held. What are my rights as a student?

First, it is very important that you understand that this is a serious charge.  Sanctions for students found responsible for sexual assault are either a long-term suspension or expulsion, and this will be noted on your transcript if you are found responsible.

UB understands the importance of protecting the rights of both parties to a sexual assault charge.  You have the right to due process, including the right to know what has been alleged.  Both parties have the right to view the evidence that will be presented at the hearing, and a right to have an advisor or support person present.  You have the right to have your side of events heard.

In order to issue a finding of "responsible," the hearing panel must find that the evidence establishes that it is more likely than not that you committed the offense.  This is called the preponderance of the evidence standard.  The process does not assume that you are automatically guilty simply because the charge has been made.  Any finding will be based on the evidence during the hearing.

Do I have to be in the same room as the other party when there is a hearing?

Not for cases handled by the Office of Student Conduct and Advocacy.  Students have the option of providing testimony by phone or videoconference, or testifying with a partition in the room.  A hearing may also be based on a charging party's statement if the person does not wish to testify.  A decision not to testify may make it more difficult to establish sufficient evidence to support the charge, however. 

Charges filed against UB employees are governed by union-negotiated disciplinary procedures.  These procedures may ultimately require an accuser to testify before an arbitrator in person, in the presence of the accused.  While UB will strongly advocate for measures to protect the comfort of the charging party while preserving due process, the conditions for testimony are determined by the arbitrator.  

I have been accused of sexual assault, and I don't feel like the process will be fair to me. Don't schools just want to expel the accused because they're afraid of being sued otherwise?

Under Title IX, schools cannot expel an accused student without evidence of wrongdoing.  You have the right to a fair process that considers all of the evidence, including your testimony.  Both parties have the right to understand what evidence will be presented.  In order to be found responsible for sexual assault, you must be proven responsible by a preponderance of the evidence - which means that the hearing must demonstrate that it is more likely than not that you violated UB's Rules and Regulations.

We understand that there is a lot at stake for both parties in a hearing.  UB hearing officers are full-time professional staff who are trained in conducting fair and impartial hearings.

Can I have an attorney present with me during a hearing?

Yes, either party to a hearing may have an attorney present as an advisor.  The attorney is not permitted to interrupt the proceeding, question the other party or interfere in the process.  You may consult with your attorney during the hearing for assistance and advice.

What are the sanctions if a student has been found responsible for sexual assault?

The possible sanctions are expulsion from UB, or a long-term suspension.  Additionally, students found responsible for sexual assault will have this noted on their transcripts.

Can students appeal the outcome of a hearing?

Yes.  Both parties have the right to appeal the outcome.

Support and Accommodations

What type of help and support do you provide to someone who has been sexually assaulted?

Regardless of whether you choose to proceed with criminal or campus charges, the University will provide accommodations.  These accommodations may include a no-contact order, relocation of housing, counseling support, academic accommodations, and other assistance to ensure that you get the support you need.  Contact EDI or the Office of Student Conduct and Advocacy if you are experiencing academic difficulties, would like a referral for counseling or if you need other assistance.

Do you also provide help and support to someone who has been accused of sexual assault?

Yes.  UB is required to provide comparable support and assistance to both parties to a sexual assault claim.  You can also access counseling services, academic accommodations, and other support.  Contact EDI or the Office of Student Conduct and Advocacy for assistance.  You may also seek help through Group Legal Services

Will I have to attend classes with someone who assaulted me, or see that person on campus?

UB can provide assistance in minimizing the contact that you have on campus with someone who assaulted you.  You have the right to a No Contact order, which requires the other party to stay away from you and not to try to reach you directly, electronically or through third-parties such as family members or friends.  We can also make changes to housing arrangements, and academic changes to minimize contact.  We can make these arrangements even if you choose not to pursue criminal or campus judicial charges.  You should be aware that because everyone is entitled to due process, any changes would need to be made to your classes or housing if you do not want to move forward with charges.

In cases where UB has information that a student could pose a danger to you or others, we will issue an interim suspension pending a campus judicial hearing.  If there is no potential danger to you or others, you still have the right to expect that you will be free from unwelcome contact by the accused party.  UB cannot guarantee that you will never see the accused party, but we will take action if this individual attempts to interact with you or harass you.  

What if the person who raped me isn't a UB student or employee?

You still have a right to assistance from UB.  Even if the person who assaulted you is not a UB student or employee, we can still help in the following ways:

  • UPD can assist you with reporting the crime;
  • We can issue an order banning the person who assaulted you from UB's premises so that you don't have to fear encountering him or her;
  • You can obtain academic accommodations if you are having difficulties attending class or if your performance has suffered because of the impact of the crime; and
  • You can access services through UB's Counseling Services, and also connect with on-campus support groups such as the Student Survivor Advocacy Alliance.
If the person who assaulted you is a student or employee of another college or university, you also have a right to file a complaint through the school's disciplinary procedures.  Every school is required to have a Title IX Coordinator.  EDI can assist you in identifying and contacting this individual.