Hello everyone, and welcome back to another edition of Wellness Wednesday with the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness! Today’s theme was centered around SAAM, otherwise known as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As you may have heard, April is the month to raise awareness of issues surrounding sexual violence, support survivors, and speak out about the issue of sexual violence and its impact in all of our communities. The recorded Wellness Wednesday Zoom session can be found and watched at this link:
In today’s Wellness Wednesday session, our guest of honor was the esteemed Hannah Retzkin, a case manager in the Title IX office here at DePaul University. Hannah provided an introduction into the world of supporting survivors and everything that the reporting process entails. There are an extensive amount of options for a survivor to pursue at the University should they choose to disclose their experience. In the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness, professional staff members are Survivor Support Advocates. This signifies a safe space for students to express as little or as much information as they choose, without the expectation that they must file a report against the perpetrator. This is an amazing resource for students to learn about their options and turn to someone for support without having to follow through with the University or legal process if they do not wish to do so. Survivor Support Advocates differ from other professional staff members or faculty at the University, as these professions are classified as mandated reporters. If a student discloses an experience related to sexual violence to a mandated reporter, the employee will be required to inform the Title IX office of the student’s experience.
For students who do wish to file a report documenting their experiences, there are several paths one could choose. A student could disclose to a mandated reporter, as they will be directed to the Title IX office. A student could also go directly to Title IX and begin the University process. Generally, a student will be given a set of options as to how they wish to proceed. Students will be placed in contact with the Sexual Assault Prevention Specialist in the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness. As previously mentioned, this staff member is a confidential resource and provides a space for students to talk through and thoroughly understand their options.
The Title IX office, located within the Dean of Students Office, is tasked with protecting against discrimination on the basis of sex including sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking. These protections stem from DePaul University’s commitment to valuing the dignity of all people, and seeks to implement best practices related to education, prevention, and holistic support of survivors. Through Title IX, DePaul will not tolerate sexual and relationship violence on any level and will work to address incidents and reports swiftly and equitably, according to DePaul’s Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention and Response Policy, which can be found in University Policies and Procedures.
There are three main processes available to survivors who wish to report. The processes include the University process, the criminal process, or a civil lawsuit. The criminal process involves reporting to the police and proceeding with a criminal complaint. With this option, a survivor may also choose to obtain a protective or restraining order from the court. A civil lawsuit, which does not require criminal charges to be filed, may be used as an opportunity to recover damages, such as compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, and emotional distress. If choosing to follow the University process, Title IX will start an investigation into the incident in order to determine if University policy against sexual violence was violated. If so, disciplinary sanctions may include probation, suspension, or dismissal from the University. Disciplinary procedures through the University seek to always provide prompt, fair, and impartial processes and be conducted by officials who receive training on sexual and relationship violence from a trauma-informed perspective. Additionally, the Title IX coordinator will seeks to remain mindful of the survivor’s wellbeing and take ongoing steps to help create a safety plan and protect the student from further harm. Protective measures will be available to the student regardless of whether or not they seek help from the police, and other resources will be provided such as advocacy, mental health services, and legal assistance.
For students who seek resources from HPW, it is our goal to provide care from a trauma-informed approach. When supporting survivors, it is important to listen non-judgmentally, provide affirmations, and respect the choices of survivors while also empowering others with information, resources, and choices.
It is our hope that this week’s Wellness Wednesday provided helpful information related to sexual violence response plans on campus in the context of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Any remaining questions can be directed to the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness where we will be more than happy to answer questions related to sexual violence on campus, advocacy, survivor support services, and more.