Awareness is present, but reporting process still murky

There have been many varying stories written about assaults, sexual or otherwise. The high numbers, the way we need to change our culture, the importance of reporting them. But in order to accomplish these things, students have to know how to report assaults, have to understand the system.

“It’s getting more common for students to understand the process,” Chris Frerichs, director of campus security, said. “I think prior to reporting assaults, students in trouble just don’t know what to do or how to deal with it, they just need someone to help them.”

Finding someone to help is the first step in a student reporting an assault and finding peace.

Depending on the starting point, the process a student goes through can look very different. If a student speaks to security, the Title IX coordinator or counseling, very different steps are taken.

If a student goes to Frerichs, his first step is informing the student of their options. As director of security, he has certain obligations.

“Before a student tells me what happened, I inform them the obligations in my role,” Frerichs said. “That often involves reporting the assault, looking into it, doing some investigation and following through with certain steps and measures.”

However, if the student does not want to officially report it, Frerichs informs them of the available confidential services, such as counseling services, campus chaplain Mara Bailey, SARA, etc.

Only after the student is informed about all these things does Frerichs hear the problem and decide what steps need to be taken. If the assault involves anything with Title IX, Rich Ramos, associate dean of students and Title IX coordinator, is contacted.

“The process is ultimately driven by the reporter in a lot of ways,” Ramos said about his part in the process. “We want to make sure they’re protected and they get the support that they need.”

The student’s safety and comfort are priority. If they don’t want to go through the whole process, they aren’t pushed to do so. However, if the issue is big enough, the safety of more students is at risk or there’s a pattern of behavior with the accused, the administration may move forward with investigating the assault regardless.

The first step after an assault is reported is a preliminary investigation, collecting data on the event. This investigation determines whether they have enough information to move forward. The accusation is then either filed, or the investigation goes more in depth.

Once the investigation is completed, the accusation is handled one of two ways: administratively or through a hearing board. Administratively, the process is relatively simple. The administration looks at the evidence to determine the truth of the accusation and the sanctions given.

 The hearing board process involves the students more. The hearing board, made up of Simpson faculty members, also looks at the evidence. In addition, they can hear from the students directly. They weigh the evidence and determine the necessary sanctions. Unlike a criminal court, these cases do not have to proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

“What a lot of people misunderstand about the hearing board is that it is determined by a preponderance of the evidence,” Ramos said. “A preponderance of the evidence is essentially fifty percent and a feather.”

If a student does not want to go through this process of reporting the assault, they still have the option to get support from counseling.

“We do not report if a student wants counseling for having been assaulted,” Olson said. “We are a confidential source of support. It is completely the choice of the victim.”

If an assault is reported to campus, the student is informed that counseling is available, but it is completely up to the student if they want that support.

Although counseling is not directly involved in the hearing process, they are there as a source of support for the duration of the hearing and after. After the hearing process, the counselors aid in healing and helping a student move forward from the situation.

Ultimately, the well-being of the students is most important. Raising awareness and making students comfortable with the process of reporting assaults, in addition to raising awareness about assault in general is how students’ well-being will be protected.