How to report sexual assault
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How to report sexual assault

Despite popular misconception, reporting a sexual assault is not a convoluted, shameful or public process. In fact, as Title IX Coordinator Molly Zlock explains, reporting a sexual assault is very discreet and can benefit an accuser in a number of ways.

“It is completely a misconception that reporting a sexual assault will thrust you into a legal process or force a victim to do anything,” said Zlock. “Belmont is very much about re-empowering victims. It is very much your story to tell.”

Zlock has seen how survivors of sexual assault can benefit from taking advantage of Belmont’s resources.

“Forty percent of survivors suffer in their schoolwork,” said Zlock. “So our goal is to keep survivors here on campus and academically successful. We can help with counseling, health services, rearranging class schedules or residence halls and it is all very discreetly done.”

This is a step-by-step guide on how to report a sexual assault. The following information was gathered and paraphrased from an interview with Zlock.

  1. An accuser can make a report by seeing Zlock directly or by telling a responsible employee/teacher, or a resident assistant or residence director who will report back to Zlock. They are trained not to ask questions if an accuser doesn’t want to answer them.

  2. Zlock will then send an email to the accuser with resources including on-campus resources, information on reporting to Metro, how to access the Nashville Sexual Assault Center and more.

  3. The accuser can choose whether or not to even respond to Zlock’s email, whether to utilize the resources or whether to just ignore it. There is no obligation to file an investigation and this email can be the end of the process if the accuser would like.

  4. If the accuser agrees  to talk about their assault or the process, they can contact the confidential victims advocate, Kirsten Riedel. Zlock cannot hear the facts of a case as she could potentially decide on the outcome of an investigation if the accuser decides to pursue one.

  5. Zlock works discreetly with the accuser to ensure the student is academically successful. Zlock can help an accuser switch residence halls to keep away from their accused, switch out of a class, put in place a no-contact order or schedule an appointment with campus counseling.

  6. If the accused would like to discuss the investigation procedure, Zlock will explain the Sexual Misconduct Accountability process to them.  It is important to note an investigation can only be pursued if the alleged is another Belmont student. If not, Belmont’s Title IX department has no jurisdiction over the alleged, and an accuser can reach out to Metro for further assistance if they choose to do so.  Belmont will assist the accuser in navigating Metro’s system.

To clarify: an accuser does not need to divulge all the details of their assault in order to utilize these resources. They just need to report that they were sexually assaulted. An accuser does not even have to divulge the name of their accused if they don’t want to. There is also no requirement to utilize these resources — they are only there if an accuser  wants them.

Some other key points accusers should know:

A no-contact order prevents the parties from communicating with one another. It also covers third-party interactions — either party is prohibited from communicating through a third party. Under a no-contact order, the friends of the involved parties could be held accountable, too, and could face disciplinary actions of their own if friends are found to be harassing either party.

If a no-contact order is violated, it sends a clear message to Belmont that the situation is escalating. A violation can spur a whole separate investigation as well as potentially involve removing individuals from campus.

If an accuser was drunk, high or under the influence during their assault, they can report the assault to Belmont without fear of disciplinary action. While experiencing assault does not prevent a student from future disciplinary actions if they are found to be under the influence on campus later, Belmont will not punish accusers for admitting they broke campus policy during the time of their assault. It’s important to note here that no one who has been sexually assaulted is to blame, no matter what.

While there are are many resources on and off campus for the accusers, there are also resources for the accused going through the investigation process.

“The process can be traumatic for both sides,” said Zlock.

If an investigation is pursued, the accused can ask for resources, and there are trained faculty and staff members who can help them through the process.

It is extremely unlikely that an accuser will be forced to pursue an investigation if they come forward. The only time in which this could be the case would be if an accuser identified the other party, and that student was known to have previously assaulted other students or if the assault was particularly violent.

The most important thing Zlock wants students to know is that she is there to help.

“A student should not be expected to be a fighter or to be able to handle everything on their own,” said Zlock. “Title IX is very much about resources for students to continue their education.”

To help Belmont better support survivors of sexual assault, students are encouraged to fill out the 2016-2017 Title IX Campus Climate Survey. Belmont will also be hosting Take Back the Night on April 6 to spread awareness of sexual assault.

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