Tips for Study Abroad
Information for International Programs / Study Abroad Staff and Faculty
Mohawk Valley Community College has policies and procedures in place to appropriately respond to reports or disclosures of sexual violence (including sexual assault, rape, and relationship violence) and sexual harassment and stalking. With all disclosures, even while following required procedures, working with students with a high degree of caring and calm is critically important so that we are responding appropriately and competently. When those disclosures are made via a distance (whether by phone or via computer) while students are studying in other countries, communication may be more difficult for both the individual reporting and the individual receiving the information. Many people, if unprepared, may be shocked into being relatively silent or have some other unexpected reaction to hearing that a student has been raped, assaulted, or experienced some other form of violence or harassment. The following offers guidelines for working with sexual violence survivors / victims.
1. Familiarize yourself with campus policies for responding to sexual violence (www.mvcc.edu/title-ix). Reportable behaviors include sexual assault and rape, domestic and dating violence, sexual harassment and stalking. Title IX applies to all members of the campus community – students, employees, individuals who do business with the campus, visitors, volunteers on campus, and in any location connected with College programs. These incidents might occur in another country with study abroad programs or campus related travel.
Faculty and staff working with international programs are considered to be “responsible employees” to report sexual violence or harassment to the Title IX Coordinator (“A responsible employee, as determined by the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, is someone who: (1) has authority to take action to redress harassment, (2) has the duty to officially report the harassment to the school’s Title IX coordinator, and (3) is a person whom a student could reasonably believe has this authority.” Chronicle of Higher Education.) Faculty and staff leaders are required to report any incidents of sexual violence of which they become aware immediately upon receiving information to the faculty member’s Dean, which has responsibility for crisis management. That Dean will work with the faculty/staff member in reporting to the Title IX Coordinator within 24 hours. A reporting person’s privacy is of utmost importance, and communicating available resources and options to the reporting person is vitally important.
2. Familiarize yourself with web definitions and resources and statistics. (www.mvcc.edu/title-ix).
3. Try to stay calm and measured. Assure the student/individual that you will try to help her/him feel safer and will share some resources and discuss the individual’s options.
Learn about and employ active listening (http://psychcentral.com/lib/become-a-better-listener-active-listening/0001299). Display calm, confident, quiet competence…and try not to display any “panic” or high levels of emotion.
It is okay to say that you are very sorry that they have experienced this situation. You walk a fine line between not minimizing the individual’s feelings or emotions and not exacerbating their negative emotions with your reaction. The following link shares information of things that can be helpful to say: http://ndvsac.org/wp-content/uploads/SA/How%20to%20help.pdf; and there are things that are unhelpful (to avoid:http://www.feministe.us/blog/)
Try to be comfortable with pauses and some silence as needed by the person speaking to you (whether in person, over the phone, or via video-conference). Know that many victims/survivors blame themselves. Responses to sexual violence are physiological (fight, flight, or freeze) and may be dictated by specific situations. After an attack, victims often question what their response was and wonder if they could have done something differently to prevent the situation. If you hear self-blaming, it is appropriate to reassure a reporting person that sexual violence is never the fault of the person who was attacked, it is a behavior perpetrated by the offender.
Validation - Acknowledge the individual’s problems, issues, and feelings. Listen openly and with empathy, and respond in an interested way — for example, “I appreciate your willingness to talk about such a difficult issue. . .”
Know that you do not have to ask them a lot of questions, because we want to give the reporting person choices and options and let them be in control of letting us know what is most important to them at this moment. In fact, it is recommended that victims/ survivors not have to repeat what happened over and over and over again, so if you are not the person to do the specific intake form, let the person tell you what they wish to tell you and try not to ask too many questions or assure them of what will definitely happen.
From the active listening web page listed above, the following are communication “roadblocks” to avoid:
• “Why” questions. They tend to make people defensive.
• Quick reassurance, saying things like, “Don’t worry about that.”
• Advising — “I think the best thing for you is to move to assisted living.”
• Digging for information and forcing someone to talk about something they would rather not talk about.
• Patronizing — “You poor thing, I know just how you feel.”
• Preaching — “You should. . .” Or, “You shouldn’t. . .”
• Interrupting — implies you aren’t interested in what someone is saying.
4. What should I do if someone reports sexual violence or sexual harassment to me?
• Those who report sexual violence may not always immediately tell someone in authority exactly what occurred. They may dance around the topic uncomfortably. It is helpful to advise individuals that what they may share with you may have to be reported to the College. If they would prefer to report to a source that does not have to report to the College, faculty/staff can advise the individual of options for confidential and privileged disclosure (which include licensed counselors, health care providers, clergy, or national hotlines such as the RAINN hotline, 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)).
• Be a non-judgmental listener.
• Avoid statements or questions that might do harm to the reporting person – (e.g. avoid any suggestion that the individual is at fault, or that they should have acted in a different manner).
• Reinforce that you can help the individual take steps to help them feel safer.
• Assure the individual that they will be treated with respect and given privacy.
• Know that there is an amnesty policy for alcohol and drug use in sexual violence cases.
• Recognize the limits of your expertise and don’t try to get all the details.
• Offer assistance in setting up an international call with the Title IX Coordinator, Counseling, or other service, so that the reporting person can learn about their options and resources!
• If the reporting person prefers no action at that time, inform the individual that you will share that with the Title IX Coordinator, and the Title IX Coordinator will contact her/him, but it is that person’s choice whether or how to respond to that contact.
• Depending on the reporting person’s wishes, the faculty or staff member may need to engage with local law enforcement, the U.S. Embassy, a partner institution, local health care providers, or others. The faculty or staff member may also need to help make emergency arrangements for the person to travel home. In such cases, the Dean and the Vice President for Student Affairs will consult with the College’s medical and accident insurance provider about eligibility for emergency travel coverage.
• In cases where the accused perpetrator is another student, or faculty or staff member, faculty or staff members leading trips must be familiar with Title IX procedures. In such cases, an alleged perpetrator may need to be dismissed from a program to return home as an interim measure pending appropriate due process. (Students will be advised to contact the Center’s Dean if they are having any issues specifically with the trip leader.)
5. What can I expect when I make a report to the Title IX Coordinator?
• The individual who disclosed the incident(s) will be treated with respect, care and dignity, and disclosures will be treated seriously.
• The reporting person’s privacy is carefully maintained. The individual will be asked to describe the incident to as few individuals as practicable and will not be required to unnecessarily repeat a description of the incident.
• The reporting person can decide whether or not to participate in the conduct or criminal justice process free from pressures from college officials.
• The Title IX Investigator will provide information on available resources such as medical services, counseling, rape crisis advocacy, etc.
• The Title IX Investigator will explain all options for disclosure/reporting to the reporting person, including reporting to the police and/or handling through the College’s Title IX procedures (if the accused is a student) and/or Human Resources (if the accused is an employee – please note the same Title IX policy and procedure applies).
• The reporting person can elect to not report and to change one’s mind about pursuing reporting process at any time.
• The reporting person will be afforded available interim measures and accommodations such as a change in academic, housing, employment, or other applicable arrangements in order to ensure safety, prevent retaliation, and avoid an ongoing hostile environment.
6. Mohawk Valley Community College has an obligation to promptly respond to complaints of sexual violence and sexual harassment to limit negative effects and prevent future recurrences. Reports should be made to the Center Dean immediately and to the Title IX Coordinator within 24 hours of any report, complaint, or request for assistance.
TITLE IX CONTACT INFORMATION
Web: www.mvcc.edu/title-ix Phone: (315) 792-5637 or (315) 792-5456
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org