Sexual Assault: Reporting and Process

Reporting options, Title IX, and Prevention on campus.


Kristy Fennessey

Chief of the IU Southeast Police Department Charles Edelen, along with the rest of IUPD, has been trained how to investigate traumatic crimes such as sexual assault, and said the officers at IUS strive to protect a student’s right to privacy throughout the process.

Kristy Fennessey, Staff Reporter

One in five women and one in seven men will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. With more than 63 percent of rape cases going unreported, that number going up to 90 percent on college campuses, rape is the most underreported crime in the country.

, said there are a lot of reasons why people do not report these assaults. He said sometimes, the victims are afraid no one will believe them. Other times, they are afraid they will get in trouble because there was alcohol involved and they are underaged.

Edelen said some victims do not come forward because they do not want a big investigation and to have to testify in court. Many people do not realize there are different options for reporting these crimes and that not all cases end with courtroom drama.

According to Edelen, when a victim comes to the police department on campus, they have several options for reporting.

“You can do an anonymous report,” Edelen said. “You can just come in and talk to us and not do a report and we can connect you to those resources.”

If the victim chooses to do an official report, they have three options: file a report through the criminal law system, file a report through the university’s judicial system or both.

“Criminal law is a bit more involved. We have to really do a scene investigation, we have to do a rape exam, they have to go to the hospital to get those done,” Edelen said. “We have to talk to everybody. We have to talk to every witness. It is an in depth thorough criminal investigation.”

Who leads the criminal investigation depends on where the incident took place. If it occurred on campus, the IUPD leads the investigation. If it happened off campus, it falls under the jurisdiction of the police department for the city in which the incident occurred.

Title IX

The way university officials respond to sexual assault is governed by Title IX and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, an amendment to the Clery Law. They ensure the victim and the accused are treated fairly and within their legal rights.

Title IX is a federal law that requires schools and universities to prevent discrimination of the basis of sex, including investigating and preventing sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Under the law, the U.S. Department of Education also requires universities to adopt policies that prevent discrimination.

At IU Southeast, the person responsible for all Title IX issues is Darlene Posey Young, deputy Title IX coordinator.

She works with the University Title IX coordinator to ensure that the appropriate designated campus officials are involved with any investigating and adjudicating complaints, according to the University’s applicable policies and procedures. Generally, when the complaint is against an employee or third party, the deputy Title IX coordinator will conduct the investigation.

When the complaint is against a student, the deputy Title IX coordinators will coordinate the investigation with the appropriate campus student affairs official. If a student chooses to report through the university, they are referred to the dean of student life’s office.

Student Judicial Process through the Dean of Student Life

According to IU Southeast’s policies on sexual assault, as soon as a responsible employee is notified, the university has 60 days to do an investigation and hold a hearing. A responsible employee is an employee who has been given the duty of reporting incidents of sexual violence by students to the Title IX coordinator or other appropriate university designee, or whom a student could reasonably believe has this authority or duty.

Examples of responsible employees are instructors, teaching assistants, advisers coaches, student affairs administrators, residential hall staff, supervisors and university officials.

Seuth Chaleunphonh, dean of student life, oversees this procedure. The process is outlined in the Office of Student Welfare and Title IX annual report, which the university is required, by law, to publish online.

“It’s important to support the student who’s going through the sexual assault incident,” said Chaleunphonh. “Especially with counseling, no matter if it happened last year or years ago.”

According to the report, once the victim reports the sexual assault and the dean of student life’s office is notified, the university will notify the accused.

Next, a designated investigator is assigned to the case and will interview both parties and any witnesses. Chaleunphonh said the investigators are student affairs professionals who are specifically trained for investigating sexual misconduct, the disciplinary process and the trauma informed approach to investigation. This means that when they deal with the victim, in terms of questioning or the investigation, they are keeping in mind the trauma the victim has been through and the effects it may have had on the victim.

“So usually, you hear the term ‘without a reasonable doubt,’. That’s the standard of proof that law enforcement has to accomplish in order to make a determination,” Chaleunphonh said. “For us it’s called a preponderance of the evidence, which is basically saying that more likely than not, this happened. It’s considered a lower standard of proof.”

Chaleunphonh said the criminal investigation must be more thorough because what is at stake is a person’s freedom versus the university’s process; what is at stake is someone’s student status. He said that somewhere between 70 percent to 90 percent of sexual assaults do not get reported. Among the many reasons people do not report an assault is because they are intimidated by the criminal investigation process. The student judicial process offers a way for the victim to come forward  in a less invasive process and does not require them to testify in a court of law, he said.

The investigator gathers the evidence. Once the evidence is gathered, a date for a sexual misconduct hearing is set. During the hearing the investigator presents  evidence to a three-person hearing panel. Both parties can participate in the hearing. In cases where the investigation is conclusive enough, both parties may allow the investigator to present the information and essentially do all the talking.

“We started doing this a couple of years ago because, in looking across the country, it was best practice to have the complainant, or victim, be questioned by an investigator. And then when we get to the hearing, the investigator is the one that reports out the accounts of the events,” Chaleunphonh said.

Chaleunphonh said it was better than requiring the victim be a witness at the hearing where the accused could cross examine them, and it helps to avoid the possibility of intimidation or revictimization. The witness has a right to decide if they want to be a more active participant or act as a witness.

Kristina Foster, elementary education junior, was sexually assaulted by another student in 2015. She chose to seek justice through the student judicial process. When it came time for the hearing, she was given the option of going into the room or waiting outside. She decided to go in.

Kristina Foster shared her story with The Horizon in a previous edition. She chose to report through the student judicial process rather than through the legal system. She said she felt supported by the staff involved in the process.ed to go in.

“It was kind of nerve-racking to do it, and it took all my strength to go into the room,” Foster said.

Foster said once the hearing started and she realized the truth was coming out, she began to relax a little bit.

“I’m happy I did what I did,” Foster said. “If I wouldn’t have reported him, he would have still been here. Because I went through everything and he got his punishment, I wasn’t able to see him on campus anymore. I knew I was safe from him on this campus.”Aside from a couple of weeks when Foster did not hear anything back while the investigator was doing interviews and gathering evidence, she said, overall, she felt really supported by the university throughout the process.Theuniversity does everything they can to ensure the rights, privacy and safety of the students involved are protected.

“We also look to see if the parties need support with what we call remedial measures,” Chaleunphonh said. “Like, let’s say they share a class, or if they lived in the residence halls and they were in the same building, we see if there is a way to make things a little easier for them to co-exist on campus.”

The remedial services are offered during the investigation and hearing and after, depending on the results of the hearing.

Prevention on Campus

According to Claudia Scharrer, sexual assault coordinator intern at IU Southeast, the key to sexual assault prevention is education.

The position of sexual assault coordinator at IU Southeast is a paid internship through Campus Life. Scharrer is a criminal justice freshman.

Scharrer works with different organizations, on and off campus, to raise awareness about sexual violence and human trafficking.

“You don’t hear about these sort of crimes,” Scharrer said. “You hear about murder and theft, but human trafficking and sexual assault, those are big things and people are afraid to talk about them.”

“You are you, and you are valued,” Scharrer said. “Everybody has value and everybody deserves respect. When that respect is disrespected, you deserve a right to get help.”

Scharrer said the reason no one wants to talk about it is because of the nature of the crime.

“It is so violent,” Scharrer said. “Sometimes, people think it’s more heinous than murder. It’s a horrible thing. It’s very important to educate people about it because it is too common.”

Scharrer said she loves her job because she wants to reduce how common sexual violence is.

“I can work on trying to prevent that, especially on campus,” Scharrer said. “It really starts with our youth. It starts here and then out in the real world.”

Scharrer said educating people on how sexual assault definitions, prevention and reporting can prevent a lot of future problems.

“The big thing is starting to know the warning signs,” Scharrer said. “It always starts with something smaller. You don’t just decide one day, ‘Oh, I want to rape somebody.’”

Scharrer said in some cases, it may start with something smaller like catcalling. If that goes unchecked, then Scharrer said they may begin to wonder if they can get away with touching someone, and how far they can push it. She said when these behaviors continue go unchecked it could lead to sexual assault in the future. By not stopping the harassment from the start, we further propagate a rape culture.

“Knowing about and stopping the harassment to begin with can stop anything from happening in the future,” Scharrer said.

Scharrer leads the Sexual Assault Prevention Committee. SAPC, along with other organizations, plan educational events, both on and off campus, to educate people on topics such as harassment, consent, warning signs, safety tips, human trafficking and human slavery.

In 2016, they even held an event teaching basic self-defense techniques. Monica Wise, a police officer from the IUS Police Department, came in to teach the class.

“What I learned from that is to know your surroundings and to know where you are going,” Scharrer said. “One thing she said was never get to crime scene number two.”

According to Scharrer, during the training, Wise said the first crime scene is where you are initially attacked. Often, the perpetrator will attempt to take their victim to a secondary crime site. Usually, this is an area more secluded where they are less likely to be interrupted or caught.

Scharrer said Wise taught attendees basic maneuvers to get their assailant to let them go so they could run away. She encouraged them to fight and do whatever it takes to not get to the secondary crime scene.

“That’s where the real crime occurs,” Scharrer said. “That’s where you are assaulted or killed. That stuck with me pretty hard. I will not be a victim of crime scene number two.”

The SAPC is currently working on several events.

On Feb. 21, they are co-sponsoring an event called Who’s Blurred Line is it Anyway. It plays off the well-known game show “Who’s Line is it Anyway.” The event is centered on teaching people what does and does not constitute as consent.

On Feb. 23, the SAPC is setting up a photo booth outside of Campus Life for students to take selfies with a red X on their hands. The students will then be encouraged to post the pictures with the hashtag #ENDITMOVEMENT. This is a nationwide event taking place on Shine a Light on Slavery Day.

At the end of March, the SAPC will focus on ending catcalling and replacing it with positive words. They will put up a wall for students to write positive thoughts on.

The SAPC is trying to put together a Take Back the Night event on April 4, in conjunction with a University of Louisville event. They are currently looking for feedback from students on the event and encourage people to get on Twitter and post their thoughts and ideas.

The SAPC is also working the Personal Counseling Office to promote the second annual Human Trafficking Conference on April 17.

Scharrer encourages everyone to go check out their Twitter page, @SAPC_IUS for events, news and updates. She encourages people to direct message them with any concerns, questions or ideas about raising awareness for and preventing sexual assault.

“We try to keep a position where people see us,” Scharrer said. “We want to make sure people know we are here if they need help. If they have any concerns, they can always come to us.”