Faculty Resources

Resources for Faculty on Fostering a Safe and Supportive Culture, Responding to Disclosures of Sexual Misconduct, and Employee Responsibilities

On this page, you will find various suggestions and guidelines on how to, as faculty and staff, foster a healthier culture in response to sexual misconduct at Northwestern. Here you can read about holistic approaches to promote a safe and supportive culture, and on the pages that follow, linked at the bottom of this one, you can find suggestions for how to respond to specific instances of disclosure of sexual misconduct. We hope that these suggestions will inspire you to implement positive changes and make the task of addressing sexual misconduct less intimidating.

What to do during a disclosure of sexual misconduct

Your response to a disclosure can have a lasting effect on a student; follow the guidelines below to respond to a student’s disclosure of sexual misconduct. See also the Faculty and Staff Guide to Disclosures of Sexual Misconduct, found here (pdf). Note that these same guidelines apply if you receive a disclosure of sexual misconduct from a colleague.

  • Assess the student’s level of safety. You can start by asking if they feel safe. Ask if they have a safe place to stay, someone to talk to who can support them, and if they are having thoughts that could put them in immediate danger. If the student feels threatened or in physical danger, decide with the student whether to contact CAPS or the University Police. During regular business hours, put the student in contact with CARE.
  • Know your reporting obligation, but do not cause unnecessary stress for the student. Avoid simply stating that you are a mandatory reporter without further explanation. If you sense that a student wants to disclose sexual misconduct to you, tell them that you will have to share the report with the Title IX Coordinator if the student continues. Offer information about confidential resources if appropriate.
  • Explain to the student what occurs once you report to the Title IX Coordinator, such as the Title IX Coordinator will be informed of what they have disclosed to you, and the student will receive an email from the Title IX office listing resources available to support them in whatever way they choose. In most cases, a report does not mandate an investigation if the student does not want to proceed.
  • Respond to the student with validation, saying things like “I believe you,” “you’re not alone,” and “you have options.” Do not probe the student or ask “why” questions. You are not tasked with investigating the misconduct, and whether or not you know the “truth” about an incident or situation, you should provide resources to the student and make a report. If a disclosure has occurred in the student’s writing, reach out and validate them by expressing concern about what happened and inform them that you have to share the disclosure with the Title IX Coordinator. Visit CARE’s page on how to “Help a Friend Who Survived Sexual Assault” for more guidance.
  • Do not try to label the experience for the student, instead use the language they use to describe what has happened. A student may not be comfortable with the terminology as they process their experience.
  • Try not to be overly emotional, creating a need for the student to take care of your needs. Instead, access counseling and support for yourself after the disclosure as needed. If you sense your emotions are effecting the student, reassure them that your anger, sadness, etc. is a reaction to their experience, not them.
  • Offer flexibility, such as extensions on assignments or other matters related to your class, if requested, in consultation with the Title IX Coordinator or the Deputy Title IX Coordinator. Do not make promises you may not be able to keep, such as being at the investigation, acting as an advocate, or ensuring that the student will prevail in the matter.
  • Establish boundaries with the student, because as faculty you are limited to your role and are not a professional counselor, emergency hotline, etc.
  • Offer additional resources the student may access in the future

Additional resources:

Last updated October 25th, 2016.