FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND INFORMATION REGARDING SEXUAL MISCONDUCT

What should I do if I or a friend may have been sexually assaulted at Amherst?

You should seek medical attention as soon as possible.  Call Amherst College Police at 413-542-2111 to report a possible assault and they will in turn help you or your friend, get the care you need.  A member of the counseling center staff is also on call 24/7.  During the day you may call 413-542-2354 or after hours 413-542-2111 and ask for the counselor on call.  For a quick reference guide on how to get the support you need, and what options are available to you, click here.

If you wish to pursue a complaint against the alleged perpetrator, or if you wish to discuss your options, you should consult with the College’s Title IX Coordinator, one of Title IX Deputy Coordinators or a member of the Title IX team.

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What should I do about preserving evidence of a sexual assault?

Physical evidence of a criminal sexual assault must be collected from the alleged victim’s person within 72 hours, though evidence can often be obtained from towels, sheets, clothes, etc. for much longer periods of time.  If you believe you have been a victim of a criminal sexual assault, you should go to the Hospital Emergency Room, before washing yourself or your clothing.  The Dean on call or another support person should accompany you to the hospital.  Having the evidence collected in this manner will help keep all options available, but will not obligate you to any course of action.  Collecting evidence can assist the authorities in pursuing criminal charges, should you decide later to exercise it.  If you have changed clothing since the assault, bring the clothing you had on at the time of the assault with you to the hospital in a clean, sanitary container such as a clean paper grocery bag or wrapped in a clean sheet (plastic containers do not breathe, and may render evidence useless).  If you have not changed clothes, bring a change of clothes with you to the hospital, if possible, as they will likely keep the clothes you are wearing as evidence. 

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What should I do if I am uncertain about what I experienced constitutes sexual assault?

If you believe that you have experienced a non-consensual sexual contact, but are unsure of whether it was a violation of the College’s sexual misconduct policy, you should contact the Counseling Center on campus, the Center for Women & Community, or another trusted administrator who can help you to define and clarify the event(s), and advise you of your options.

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Does the complaint remain confidential?

The privacy of all parties to a complaint of sexual misconduct must be strictly observed, except insofar as it interferes with the College’s obligation to fully investigate allegations of sexual misconduct.  Where privacy is not strictly kept, it will still be tightly controlled on a need-to-know basis.  Dissemination of information and/or written materials to persons not involved in the complaint procedure is not permitted.  Violations of the privacy of the complainant or the accused student may lead to conduct action by the College. 

If you report an act of alleged sexual misconduct local police will be notified.  This does not mean charges will be automatically filed or that a victim must speak with the police, but the College is legally required to notify law enforcement authorities.  The College also must statistically report the occurrence on campus of major violent crimes, including certain sex offenses, in an annual report of campus crime statistics.  This statistical report does not include personally identifiable information.

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Can I make a report anonymously?

Any individual may make an anonymous report concerning an act of sexual misconduct. An individual may report the incident without disclosing his/her name, identifying the Respondent or requesting any action. Depending on the level of information available about the incident or the individuals involved, however, the College’s ability to respond to an anonymous report may be limited.  Anonymous reports may be made by telephone at 888-497-1022 or online at www.amherst.ethicspoint.com. EthicsPoint is a service that allows anyone to report suspected misconduct or other issues with complete confidentiality. This service allows the person making the report and College administrators to confer about additional details, while the reporting party's identity remains confidential. All reports will go to the Title IX Coordinator.

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Do I have to name my assailant?

Yes, if you want formal disciplinary action to be taken against the alleged assailant.  No, if you choose to respond informally and do not file a formal complaint.  Survivors should be aware that not identifying the assailant may limit the College’s ability to respond comprehensively.

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Will the accused student know my identity?

Yes, if you file a formal complaint.  Sexual misconduct is a serious offense and the accused student has the right to know the identity of the complainant/alleged victim.  If there is a hearing, the College does provide options for questioning without confrontation.  The answer is only no if no specific name or identity is provided.  In this situation the issue is counted in the College’s reporting data, but no formal investigation or confrontation can be conducted.

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If I report my assailant, I am afraid that I will be subject to retaliation from him/her or his/her friends.  What kinds of protection can Amherst College provide to me?

It is a violation of College policy to retaliate in any way against an individual or a group because the individual or group of individuals reported an allegation of sexual harassment or misconduct.

The College recognizes that retaliation can take many forms, may be committed by an individual or a group against an individual or a group, and that a Respondent can also be the subject of retaliation by the Complainant or a third party.  The College will take immediate and responsive action to any report of retaliation and may pursue disciplinary action as appropriate.  An individual reporting sexual harassment or misconduct is entitled to protection from any form of retaliation following a report that is made in good faith, even if the report is later not proven.

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What if I have a relationship with the person who assaulted me?

It is never okay to force, threaten or coerce someone into having sex against his/her will, even if they are in a relationship.  Just because you have been intimate with someone in the past does not automatically mean you give consent for any and all future sexual activity.

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Will my parents be told?

Whether you are the Complainant or the accused student, the College’s primary relationship is to the student and not the parent.  However, in the event of major medical, disciplinary, or academic jeopardy, students are strongly encouraged to inform their parents.  College officials will directly inform parents when requested to do so by a student, or in certain instances where a health or safety emergency exist, or if the College determines such communication is necessary.

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What do I do if I am accused of sexual misconduct?

Do not contact the alleged victim.  You must contact the Dean of Students Office, which will explain the College’s procedures for addressing sexual misconduct complaints and provide the option to select an Advisor from the list of trained Advisors, explain the rights and responsibilities of the Complainant and Respondent, explain the prohibition against retaliation, and explain the Hearing Board process.

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My assailant lives in my residence hall and/or attends one of my classes.  I am also having difficulty concentrating on my schoolwork.  How can I change my residence hall and receive help with my courses?

If your assailant lives in your residence hall or attends one of your classes, you may change residence halls or classes.  In order to change residence halls, a Title IX Deputy Coordinator will work with Residential Life to make this change on your behalf.  You may be offered a Rest and Relaxation Room on campus until the first suitable room becomes available.  We will work with your class Dean and/or the Registrar’s Office to help switch your classes and assist in getting extensions on course work if necessary. 

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Will a student be punished when reporting a sexual misconduct policy violation if he/she has illegally used alcohol and/or other drugs?

Amherst College’s primary concern is the health and safety of its students.  When conducting an investigation of an alleged sexual assault, the College’s focus will be on addressing the sexual assault and not the lesser policy violations that may be discovered or disclosed.  The College may, however, provide referrals to counseling or require other educational options.

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Will the use of alcohol or other drugs affect the outcome of a sexual misconduct complaint?

The use of alcohol and/or drugs by either party will not diminish the responsibility of the accused.  However, alcohol and/or other drugs are likely to affect memories and may affect the outcome of a case.

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Will either party’s prior use of drugs and/or alcohol be a factor when reporting sexual misconduct?

Not unless there is a compelling reason to believe that prior use or abuse is relevant to the present complaint.

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If I engage in a sexual activity with someone who has been drinking, can I be accused of sexual assault?

Yes, it is against Amherst College’s Sexual Misconduct policy to engage in any sexual activity with someone who is mentally or physically incapacitated, and therefore incapable of giving consent.  Alcohol may cause such a state of incapacitation.  However, it varies on a case by case basis.  For a variety of reasons it is not advisable to engage in sexual activity while intoxicated.  When one or both parties are intoxicated, people tend to misinterpret another’s sexual intentions and often proceed before the issue of consent has been clarified. 

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Can I file a complaint with the College and also with the police?  Can I do one and not the other?

Yes, you may take action through both the campus disciplinary system and the criminal justice system. The College encourages Complainants to pursue criminal action for incidents of sexual harassment or misconduct that may also be crimes under Massachusetts law. In every case of sexual violence, the College, through the Chief of Amherst College Police, will notify the Amherst Police Department of the allegations.  The College will also assist a Complainant in making a criminal report and will cooperate with law enforcement agencies if a Complainant decides to pursue the criminal process to the extent permitted by law.  However, a Complainant may also choose not to pursue criminal action, and under most circumstances, the Amherst Police Department will not force a Complainant to pursue charges if he/she is not willing to do so.

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What is the role of the Advisor?

An Advisor serves to guide the Complainant and Respondent through the pre-hearing and hearing process and may accompany the student to any meeting with a College employee and to the hearing.  The Advisor is not an advocate for the student and may not direct questions to or otherwise address the Hearing Board but may consult with the student that he or she is assisting.  An Advisor will be offered to the Complainant at the time the complaint is filed and the Respondent will be offered an Advisor at the time he or she is notified of the complaint.  The Complainant and Respondent may select from the list maintained by the Dean of Students of trained Advisors or decline the assistance of an Advisor.

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How do I file a complaint?

A person, who has experienced an incident of sexual misconduct, as defined in the Sexual Misconduct Policy, may file a complaint against the Amherst College student responsible for that conduct.  “Person” may include any member of Amherst College, including students, faculty, administrators, and staff members, visitors, or members of one of the constituent institutions of the Five Colleges.  You will submit a Complaint Form to the Dean of Student Conduct.  The Complaint Form should contain sufficient information to permit the Respondent to understand the charges being brought and to be able to adequately respond. 

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What is the role of the Investigator?

The Dean of Student Conduct or designee will designate an Investigator of its choosing to conduct a thorough, impartial and fair investigation.  The Investigator chosen will have specific training and experience investigating allegations of sexual misconduct.  The Investigator will coordinate the gathering of information from the Complainant, Respondent, and other individuals or entities with relevant information regarding the complaint using any of the following processes.  The Investigator will share with the Complainant and Respondent for comment or rebuttal information and documentation considered material to the findings related to the complaint.  In addition to reviewing any documents submitted by the Complainant and Respondent, the Investigator will try to obtain such other physical or medical evidence relevant to the investigation as the Investigator determines, in his or her judgment, to be necessary, including but not limited to documents, police records, electronic or other record of communications between the parties or witnesses, records or other relevant information.  In obtaining such evidence, the Investigator will comply with applicable laws and Amherst College policies.  The Investigator may visit relevant sites or locations and record observations through written or photographic documentation.  The Investigator will interview the Complainant and the Respondent separately and may interview one or both more than once as necessary.  The Complainant and Respondent may be accompanied by their respective Advisors.  The Investigator will make a good faith effort to contact and interview any witnesses identified by the parties or in the documentation, including those no longer at the College.  The Investigator may also interview any other individual he or she finds to be potentially relevant to the allegations of the complaint.  The Investigator will inform each witness or other individual interviewed that they are prohibited from retaliating against the Complainant and Respondent or other witnesses.  The Investigator may contact any expert the Investigator determines is necessary to ascertain the facts related to the complaint.  An expert witness may be contacted for an informal consult or for a professional opinion regarding information learned from the investigation.  The Investigator will prepare an Investigative Report summarizing and analyzing the relevant facts determined through the Investigation, referencing any supporting documentation or statements.  The Investigative Report may include summaries of interviews with the Complainant, Respondent, third-party witnesses, experts, and any other individuals with relevant information, photographs of relevant sites or physical evidence, electronic records and forensic evidence.  The Investigator may provide a summary of his/her impressions including context for the evidence, but will not make a determination as to whether a violation occurred, reserving that decision for the Hearing Board.  The Dean of Student Conduct will provide the Complainant and the Respondent with a copy of the Investigative Report before the Hearing. 

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Who is present at the disciplinary hearing and will I need to be in the same room as my assailant?

Those who may be present at the hearing are the Complainant, the Respondent, their respective Advisors, Investigator, witnesses and other College officials.  The Investigator and witnesses may only be present in the hearing room when they are providing information to the Hearing Board. The Complainant and Respondent will be present in the hearing room; however, a Complainant or Respondent may also request participation in the hearing by other suitable means that would not require physical proximity to the other. This can include, but is not limited to, partitioning a hearing room or using technology to facilitate participation.  The Hearing Board may also allow for witnesses to appear through other technological means.  All requests to participate in the hearing other than in person must be reviewed in advance by the Dean of Students or designee as Chair to ensure compliance with a fair and equitable process.

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Is the Hearing Board that will be hearing my case the same as the Committee on Discipline? 

No.  Hearings to address complaints of sexual misconduct shall be conducted by the Sexual Misconduct Hearing Board except that the Provost may conduct a hearing if a full Hearing Board cannot reasonably be convened.  The Hearing Board for a particular hearing is comprised of three persons that are drawn from a pool of individuals from the community, including the Five College Consortium.  All Hearing Board members will have prior experience in, and will receive annually training regarding, the dynamics of sexual misconduct, the factors relevant to a determination of credibility, the appropriate manner in which to receive and evaluate sensitive information, the manner of deliberation, and the application of the preponderance of the evidence standard, as well as the College’s policies and procedures.  The Dean of Students or designee will serve as the non-voting Chairperson and as an advisor to the Hearing Board.  Hearing Board members shall not consist of faculty, staff or students at Amherst College.

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Who will be responsible for determining the sanctions?

At the conclusion of the hearing, everyone other than the Chair, the College’s legal counsel, and the Hearing Board members will be dismissed from the hearing room to allow the Hearing Board to deliberate in private.  The Chair and the College’s legal counsel may remain for deliberations but may not participate in the deliberations and may not vote.  The Hearing Board must reach a decision on responsibility by majority vote.  If the Hearing Board finds responsibility, it will deliberate regarding the appropriate sanction(s) and reach a decision by majority vote.  The votes themselves will not be shared with the parties, only the decision on responsibility and any applicable sanction.  The Hearing Board may schedule additional meetings to complete deliberations if necessary.  If the Hearing Board finds the Respondent responsible for violations of the Sexual Misconduct Policy and/or other College policies, the Hearing Board will impose appropriate sanctions by selecting from the range of sanctions outlined in the Student Conduct Process.  Sanctions may be issued individually or in combination with other sanctions.  In determining the appropriate sanction(s), the Hearing Board may consider a number of factors including: the harm suffered by the Complainant; any ongoing risk to either the Complainant or the community posed by the Respondent; the impact of the violation(s) on the community, its members, or its property; any previous conduct violations; any mitigating or aggravating circumstances; and the information contained in any impact statements submitted by the parties.  

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What is the time frame for resolution?

The investigation and resolution (including appeal) of all reports will generally be completed within 60 to 90 days.  Extenuating circumstances including the complexity and severity of a complaint may arise that require the complaint process to extend beyond 60 to 90 days. In general, a Complainant and Respondent can expect to receive periodic updates as to the status of the review or investigation.  In the event that the investigation and resolution exceed this time frame, the College will notify all parties of the need for additional time and best efforts will be made to complete the process in a timely manner.

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What should I do if I or a friend experiences sexual misconduct on another campus?

Amherst College is part of the 5-College Consortium (the “5-Colleges”), and it is recognized that your time as an Amherst student may bring you to many other college campuses for a variety of reasons. If you experience sexual misconduct on any college campus, regardless of the school, know that options are available to you.  Generally, sexual misconduct complaints are handled and, if the survivor chooses this route, adjudicated by the college where the alleged perpetrator is enrolled.  All colleges and universities are required to have a designated Title IX officer on campus to help with the reporting of sexual misconduct and to also help survivors access resources.  Any member of Amherst College’s Title IX team can assist you with understanding your options if you have experienced sexual misconduct on any college campus. 

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.

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