The summer after my freshman year I was sexually assaulted. I was at a party, there was alcohol and I followed my then boyfriend’s best friend out into the woods under the guise he had something important to tell me. As you can guess, he did not.
My boyfriend was skeptical. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe me, but why would the guy he’s known since third grade do this? Of course, he denied everything. And that was that; it was never brought up again and he suffered no consequences.
I could have filed a police report, but it would’ve been a “he said she said” situation and there was no evidence except for my words against his. I chose not to go through the process of reporting it. I didn’t want to go through a traumatic process that I knew would not have the outcome I wanted.
I was the one to make this choice but at Simmons College, this choice can be made for you. An email from the Simmons Title IX Coordinator to staff members said, “All employees are considered responsible employees and have an obligation to report incidents of gender-based misconduct which come to your attention.”
If you report a sexual assault to any faculty member besides counseling and health center staff, clergy, or the Violence Prevention & Education Outreach director, they are mandated to report it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to report it, it will be reported anyways. Why was the email sent only to staff members? As far as I know, no other Simmons students have received an email mentioning that staff members are mandated reporters. If Simmons really wants to be open about this issue they should’ve sent it to everyone in the Simmons community, not just staff.
Even though this policy is published, it is buried on page 13 of the Gender-Based Misconduct Policy for Students, Faculty, Staff, and Visitors. Many students do not read this 28-page document, and they shouldn’t have to. It is also difficult to find on the Simmons website as unless you know what key terms to search.
Mandated reporting is federal law and not unique to Simmons. As a sexual assault survivor, I believe mandated reporting strips both the survivor and the employee of their autonomy as it takes away choices about their body and mental health.
If someone is coming to you about their experience with sexual assault, it is because they trust you. They should be given the resources they need, and a choice to report, not the order to. Even if the sexual assault is just being reported up to the Title IX coordinator, that is still telling the survivor’s story without their permission, further taking away what little control survivors feel like they have. Survivors should be able to choose who they tell their story to, not be forced to as part of some self-saving investigation done by their college.
As sexual assault is being an increasingly common occurrence, survivors need to know that they are safe. In a time when their control has just been stolen, survivors do not need more of it snatched away. This is why I believe that mandating reporting, even though it covers the college’s ass, is harmful to the survivors who should be the real concern of the college.
Please remember that sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, what you had to drink, or how you acted, it is never your fault.