What to do before a disclosure, and how to help foster a safe and supportive culture

As faculty, you can have an important impact on the environment of the classroom and its safety for all students and survivors. Consider how you can implement the following actions in your classroom.

  • Understand sexual assault and violence as a cultural problem. Within our culture, our responses to sexual violence may place blame on victims and claim the actions they took led to their own victimization. No matter their actions, the decision to violate was made by the perpetrator. Societal attitudes are heavily informed by gender norms and sexual puritanism, but you can learn more by attending CARE sponsored trainings and events and staying informed about the issue.
  • Attend events and engage with the campus. Various student groups on campus, including Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators, sponsor talks surrounding issues of sexual violence. Become aware of the culture on campuses which continues to permit sexual violence. Know what’s happening at Northwestern by attending quarterly Campus Coalition on Sexual Violence meetings where students, faculty, and staff come together to share work being done around sexual violence response and prevention on campus and learn more about these issues.
  • Know the definitions of consent, sexual assault, dating/domestic violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and sexual exploitation at Northwestern.
  • Include a statement in your syllabus that addresses how sexual misconduct may be reported and faculty’s reporting obligation in order to make students aware in a private but direct manner. Language for this optional statement could follow the example provided below:
  • Introduce course material in a way that is safe to survivors, by providing a content warning, which is a short description of instances of sexual violence presented. This gives individuals who have experienced sexual violence full knowledge about what the content may contain before they choose to engage with the material. Included below are links to articles discussing the use of “trigger warnings,” as well as sample language for what such a warning would look like.
  • Encourage students to be involved with the issue, perhaps through small extra credit opportunities for attending events around campus or the community which deal with sexual violence.
  • Organize with other faculty to develop a united effort within your department, school, etc.
  • Use your particular expertise to sit on panels, shape policy, do research, and create material for presentations.
  • Set a positive example by not making sexual jokes or engaging in comments or behavior that are inconsistent with the University’s Policy on Sexual Misconduct. Respect student/faculty boundaries, and do not ignore unwelcome comments or behavior by others.
  • Do not ignore instances, in student interactions or course material, which may make your classroom uncomfortable. Some of these situations may call for bystander intervention; learn more about strategies in Step Up!, a program to encourage active bystanders. Discuss these instances with the class as appropriate for the course.
  • Invite CARE or SHAPE to present in your classroom, as appropriate.
  • Display CARE materials in your office to indicate that you are available as a resource for your students, and have materials available for them to take. Some CARE materials are available to download including posters and handouts; pamphlets, posters, and cards can be requested at care@northwestern.edu.
  • Know your role as a “link” to resources for the student. You may not be trained as a sexual violence expert or advocate, but you can serve to connect a student to these resources. It is important to be aware of confidential services and reporting options, linked below, as well as to understand what the process of reporting is like for the student.
  • Take an interest in the lives of students outside academics, by noticing students who start struggling in class, stop showing up to class, or always seem tired or disengaged. Check in with the student about whether stressors are presenting themselves outside of class.

Additional resources: