Did you know that September is National Campus Safety Awareness Month? Thousands of college and graduate students across the District headed back to school this fall, and while for many this means navigating their class schedule, juggling work and extra curricular commitments, and making new friends, unfortunately some students may also find themselves recovering from sexual assault or harassment.
According to survey data, approximately 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted sometime during college. That’s why it is so important for students to be aware that there are a number of different laws that provide protections for students who experience sexual violence and harassment on campus, such as Title IX and the Clery Act, and where they can go to get help and support in their recovery.
Here are 5 things you should know if you are a student in DC and have been or become the victim of sexual violence or harassment:
MedStar Washington Hospital Center is the only hospital in the District where victims of sexual assault can receive a SANE exam. While there may be hospitals closer to your campus, all victims of sexual assault must go to MedStar unless they are medically unable to do so. After you arrive, a forensic nurse examiner from DCFNE and a professional advocate from NVRDC will meet you at the hospital. Our advocates can stay with you for the entire duration of the exam and during the interview with Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) if you choose to report. We can also provide free transportation to and/or from the hospital for anyone seeking a medical forensic exam. You can call the DC SANE Hotline at 800-641-4028 if you would like to speak with an advocate or nurse if you have any questions or if you would like to receive a SANE exam.
It’s up to each individual school to create their own sexual misconduct and harassment policies, so the formal process for reporting and campus adjudications may look different from school to school. Title IX requires schools to have an established procedure for handling complaints of sexual violence, harassment, or discrimination that is fair for both parties. Your school should have information about their disciplinary policies and the procedures for filing a complaint readily available to all students, as well as information about confidential and non-confidential resources on campus to which you can go if you want their assistance.
Schools also have an obligation to ensure survivors are provided with reasonable accommodation so that they can continue their education after their victimization. Accommodations can include a broad range of things, so don’t be afraid to ask for something that you need. This can mean working with professors to get extensions for assignments if you are having a hard time keeping up with your coursework and taking care of your mental health at the same time. Another example is to get permission for excused absences that don’t count against your grade if you have to attend court appointments related to the assault. Other accommodations can include changing class and work schedules to make sure that you don’t have to see your assailant or receiving on-campus mental health treatment if you want to talk with a licensed clinician.
Investigations by schools and those conducted by law enforcement are not the same, and reporting to one does not mean that you have automatically reported to the other. They are two separate systems with different processes and potential implications. It’s your choice as a survivor whether you want to report to either or both of them, so it may be helpful for you to talk with someone to learn more about what that entails.
If you need help, NVRDC is here. Navigating systems can be difficult, and our professional staff members can guide you through your options and available resources both on and off campus. From preparing for the on-campus disciplinary process or filing for a Civil Protection Order (CPO) in DC Superior Court to understanding how to apply for Crime Victims’ Compensation if you have any emergency expenses that come up related to the crime, our case managers and attorneys can help you every step of the way. You can reach our office Monday – Friday from 9 am – 5 pm by calling 202-742-1727 to schedule an intake and connect with one of our advocates. If you have been sexually assaulted within the last 96 hours and would like to receive a medical forensic exam, please call 800-641-4028 24/7 or go to MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Emergency Department at 110 Irving Street NW, Washington, DC.