Frequently Asked Questions FAQs
1. If I share information about a sexual assault, what is the difference between confidentiality and privacy?
CONFIDENTIALITY: Under Oregon law, communications with some individuals are confidential. This means that any information shared by the victim/survivor with a specific individual will not be used against the individual in court or shared with others. This individual cannot be subpoenaed to testify against the survivor in a court of law.
Students should always confirm whether confidentiality applies to the communication. Generally, confidentiality applies when a student seeks services from the following persons:
- Psychological counselor (including counselors at WOU Student Health and Counseling Services)
- Health care provider (including medical professionals at WOU Student Health and Counseling Center)
- Victim’s advocate (including professional staff at WOU’s Abby’s House)
- Personal attorney
- Religious/spiritual counselor
PRIVACY: Western Oregon University is committed to creating an environment that encourages students to come forward if they have experienced any form of sexual misconduct. The university will safeguard the identities of the students who seek help or who report sexual misconduct. That is, university employees will seek to keep the information private (other than a counselor or medical provider).
A university employee cannot guarantee complete confidentiality, but the individual can guarantee privacy. Information is disclosed only to select university personnel who have an essential need to know in order to carry out their university responsibilities. As is the case with any educational institution, the university must balance the needs of the individual student with its obligation to protect the safety and well-being of the community at large. Therefore, depending on the seriousness of the alleged incident, further action may be necessary, including a campus security alert. The alert, however, would never contain any information identifying the student who brought the complaint.
2. What options do I have for reporting sexual misconduct?
A student may choose one or more of the following options:
- You can make a police report with the Monmouth Police Department (503-838-1109) or the Independence Police Department (503-838-1214). Even if you do not want to pursue criminal charges at this time, you can always make a police report to have this information on file. Police reports are eventually accessible by Public Records Requests and could be accessed in the future.
- You can make a report to Campus Public Safety (503-838-8481). If you do not want formal action to be taken, your report will remain private and only shared with key university personnel unless the University must take actions for reasons of safety.
- You can file a report with the Office of Student Conduct (503-838-8930). If you do not want formal action to be taken, your report will remain private and only shared with key university personnel unless the University must take actions for reasons of safety.
- If the incident involves WOU faculty or staff, you can file a complaint with the Office of Human Resources (503-838-8490).
- You can file a sexual harassment report with Judy Vanderburg, Director of the Office of Human Resources and Affirmative Action, who is Western Oregon University’s Title IX Coordinator (503-838-8490).
- You can file an Anonymous Report. Unless you provide your name or the name of the alleged perpetrator, this information will only be used for the purpose of statistical reporting.
An Advocate from Abby’s House can help talk you through your options and can accompany you through the process of accessing any of these reporting options.
Even if you don’t want to file a police report, consider receiving medical attention from the Student Health and Counseling Center, West Valley Hospital (Dallas), Salem Hospital or Good Samaritan Hospital (Corvallis). A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) will help ensure that you are healthy, provide options to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, and collect valuable evidence that may be useful in the future, even if you are unsure about pursuing legal action now. Physical evidence can only be collected up to 72 hours after an assault, but a survivor in Oregon has six years to decide whether to pursue a criminal case without DNA evidence and 12 years WITH DNA evidence (or six and 12 years respectively after one’s 18th birthday if the assault was unreported and took place prior to the survivor turning 18).
NOTE: The Office of Student Conduct will not pursue disciplinary charges against the survivor for improper use of alcohol or drugs if the student is making a good faith report of sexual misconduct.
3. What are the benefits of reporting a sexual misconduct incident to the police?
Contacting Monmouth or Independence Police does not mean you must pursue charges. The Police can advise you of your options and can also preserve evidence while you consider your options. Both the Monmouth and Independence Police can also advise you on safety measures you can take to protect yourself.
For emergencies, contact 911. For non-emergencies students are encouraged to contact Monmouth Police at 503-838-1109, or Independence Police at 503-838-1214.
4. What if I’m an employee at the university and I have become aware of an incident of sexual misconduct?
As a member of the Western Oregon University community, a student may approach you regarding being the recipient of unwelcomed sexual contact, or having knowledge regarding another student in this situation. It is important to provide support to a survivor of sexual assault and to also refer this person to professional resources. These steps are designed to help you best support and inform someone of the resources available to assist with the person’s physical and emotional needs.
- Recognize it can be an enormous step for someone to talk with another person about a sexual assault and this person has placed trust in you by revealing the experience. However, it is important to inform the student you are mandated to report any information the student reports to you. The following statement is suggested to have available to inform the student:
“I need to tell you that I am considered a mandated reporter. I must inform the university an incident has occurred. I don’t want to scare or intimidate you, but your personal safety and overall health is our number one concern. The reason we do this report is to make sure you are able to get all the help and support you need. If you do not want details of what occurred reported or are not interested in making a complaint at this time, you have the right to maintain your privacy. I will only report what you confide in me.”
- You are not a counselor, an investigator, or a state-certified victim’s advocate and no one is asking or expecting you to perform these duties. Acknowledge the boundaries on your relationship with this student while helping the student access the resources and assistance which offer the best support and care. Offer to walk the student over to the Student Health and Counseling Center or Abby’s House for further assistance.
- Given the trust the student has placed in you, please respect the student’s privacy. Do not share the student’s experience with others except for the Office of Student Conduct, Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, or Campus Public Safety.
- Listen and believe the student. Inform the student of reporting options.
- Support the student’s choices, and refer the student to the appropriate resources.
- You can assure the student that no records or reports of sexual assault are kept in the student’s permanent academic records.
5. Why am I encouraged to report an incident of sexual misconduct to the Office of Student Conduct?
The Office of Student Conduct staff can assist a student in filing formal complaints or, if the student does not want to file a formal complaint, the staff can work with the student to address concerns over housing, class assignments or schedules, leaves of absence, withdrawal or other academic concerns. The office staff can also assist the student in notifying local law enforcement, if the student so requests.
The Office of Student Conduct will make a student services staff member available to a student with a complaint if the student would like assistance throughout any university investigation or adjudication process. This staff member serves as a point of contact to answer questions and explain processes, join the student in meetings, and make sure the student’s expressed needs are being addressed. This staff member is not an “advocate” (as described in the Sexual Misconduct Policy) nor is the staff person a representative who will speak on behalf of the student in any investigatory or adjudication process.
In all situations, the university’s goal is to treat the student who reports misconduct with sensitivity and fairness, while also ensuring the accused individual receives due process if any disciplinary action is to be imposed.
A staff member in the Office of Student Conduct may take immediate interim actions to protect the safety of the university community, to enable students with complaints and witnesses to continue studies, and to ensure the integrity of an investigation. These actions may include:
- Interim suspension of the accused student
- No-contact notices
- Modifying class or work schedules
- Making alternate housing arrangements
- Addressing other academic concerns (e.g., absences, assignments, grades, leaves of absence, withdrawal)
To seek assistance and support, or to report misconduct, contact the Office of Student Conduct, Ackerman Hall, 503-838-8930, firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Should I report a sexual assault if I was drinking underage when it occurred?
Yes! Students are strongly encouraged to report incidents of, or share information about, sexual misconduct as soon as possible. This is true even if the student with a complaint or a witness may have concern that his or her own alcohol or drug use, or other prohibited activity were involved. The Office of Student Conduct will not pursue disciplinary charges against a survivor with a complaint improper use of alcohol or drugs if the survivor is making a good faith report of sexual misconduct.
7. Does it make a difference if the sexual misconduct occurs on or off campus?
No. Sexual misconduct, sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking and other violations of the Code of Student Responsibility include both on-campus and off-campus conduct.
8. Why should I seek medical attention when I haven’t decided whether I want to report the assault to the police or the university?
Seeking medical attention can help you in many ways. First, seeking medical attention can help you take care of your own health by checking for injuries, treating those injuries, and addressing the possibility of sexually transmitted infections.
Second, a forensic medical exam can preserve evidence of the assault. This is important even if you are currently undecided about your next steps because you may later decide to pursue criminal charges or university disciplinary charges – that evidence can help in both situations. A medical exam is not, however, required before pursuing criminal or university disciplinary charges. Initial medical exams are free for a person who has been sexually assaulted. These exams are usually completed by a trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE).
9. Where can I find information about WOU crime statistics?
10. Where can I find information on how to reduce my risk of being a victim of sexual assault or stalking?