Being accused of sexual misconduct in any form can be a confusing and stressful experience. There are campus resources available to answer your questions and offer you support through the process. You’ll notice that if you are accused of sexual misconduct, you are referred to in the process as the “respondent”. Under the Sexual Misconduct Policy, both the respondent and complainant have the right to a fair and equitable adjudication process.
Resources for Respondents to Complaints of Sexual Misconduct
Every University of Delaware student, faculty, and staff member has the right to expect a learning and working environment that is safe, fair, inclusive, and accepting. In order to support students, faculty, and staff throughout a complaint process, university resources for accused individuals include counseling, health, and mental health assistance, as well as assistance in changing academic, living, transportation, and working situations as needed.
The university will conduct a fair and neutral process for cases of sexual misconduct, and the full procedures are detailed in the sexual misconduct policy. Questions concerning these procedures can be addressed to Dr. Susan L. Groff, Title IX Coordinator, and Director, Office of Equity & inclusion.
- Be treated with respect by all University officials;
- Be informed of the policy (or policies) alleged to have been violated, the sanction to be applied if the respondent agrees the allegations are accurate and the process for disputing the allegation(s) or recommended sanction(s);
- Be notified of available counseling, mental health, medical and legal services both on campus and in the community;
- Be free of any form of retaliation and to report such retaliation for disciplinary action;
- An adequate, reliable, impartial and prompt investigation of the allegations conducted within a reasonable period of time after the complaint is filed;
- Be accompanied by up to two support persons throughout the process, including at any interviews;
- Be kept informed of the status of the investigation, to the extent possible;
- Review all documents that are made available to the complainant;
- Have past unrelated behavior excluded from the investigation process;
- Receive written notice of the date, time and location of any interview scheduled with the investigator;
- Question the selection of the investigator and the person(s) deciding the sanction on the basis of a conflict of interest or demonstrated bias;
- Meet with the investigator and present information on their own behalf, identify witnesses or other third parties who might have relevant information and identify or provide relevant documents or other information the respondent believes may be helpful to the investigation;
- Refuse to answer any question or make any statement if also facing criminal charges;
- Be notified of the outcome and sanction(s), as appropriate, in writing, as soon as possible and at the same time as the complaint;
- Initiate an appeal of the finding or sanction;
- Participate in the appeal process, if initiated by the complainant; and
- Waive any of the rights contained herein.
If You Are a Respondent
Any member of the University community who is reported to have committed act(s) of sexual misconduct may be subject to disciplinary action and/or criminal charges. University disciplinary action may occur whether or not criminal charges are filed.
Non-retaliation policy – It is a violation of University policy to retaliate in any way against students or employees because they have raised allegations of sexual or other discriminatory harassment. Person(s) against whom the complaint is lodged also bear a responsibility to abstain from retaliatory behavior toward the complainant(s) and/or any individual participating in the investigation.
My Friend is a Respondent
If a friend or someone you know is reported to have committed act(s) of sexual misconduct, it is likely that you have questions and may be struggling to understand what has happened. You may be experiencing a range of emotions such as helplessness, anger, confusion or betrayal. If your friend has told you that they have been reported to have committed act(s) of sexual violence, they may be turning to you for help and support. You may be unsure how to respond to your friend or the situation.
Here are a few ways you can help your friend through this experience:
- Direct your friend to resources. The Office of Equity & Inclusion can and will help a Respondent understand their rights, resources and what may happen next. Helping your friend access these resources is a step you can take to provide support in what may be a confusing and emotional time for both of you.
- Recommend that your friend seek counseling services to deal with their emotions. It may also be helpful for you to seek counseling to help you process any emotions and trauma you may be experiencing as a result of the situation.
- Get educated on the issue of sexual misconduct. The information on this Web site can answer some of the questions you may have. If you are seeking additional information on sexual violence, please contact Student Wellness and Health Promotion.
- Be available to listen in a non-judgmental manner. They may not feel comfortable talking about the matter, but let your friend know you will listen.
- Familiarize yourself with the Sexual Misconduct Policy.
Remember, being a good friend does not mean:
- Approving of your friend’s actions and/or choices. You can help your friend without making a judgment as to whether or not an act of sexual misconduct occurred. Determining if a crime or policy violation took place is the responsibility of the legal system and/or campus administrators.
- Telling your friend what to do.
- Blaming the student who has brought the complaint.
- Telling others about what might have happened and violating their confidentiality and trust.
- Taking action. Violence or retaliation is not the answer to helping your friend. Remember, harassing and threatening behaviors are not helpful and could undermine any court or university proceeding taking place. It could also jeopardize your own standing at the University.
What to Expect Next (the investigative process):
- You will be formally notified of the charges.
- While the case is in progress, interim measures may be taken.
- The case will be assigned to an investigator.
- The investigator will interview:
- The complainant;
- You, the respondent;
- Any relevant witnesses;
- Look to collect and review and relevant documentation;
- The investigator will give you the opportunity to present questions you believe should be asked of the complainant, reporting party (if it was not the complainant) or witnesses, as well as the opportunity to respond to statements made by others, if deemed appropriate by the investigator.
- You have the right, at any time during the investigation, to provide the investigator with a written statement, other supporting materials, or identify other potential witness regarding the incident.
- You may have up to 2 support persons with you during any meeting or conversation.
- The investigator has 30 days to conduct the investigation. If we need to go beyond the 30 days you will be notified.
- Once a draft of the report has been shared and reviewed by the Title IX coordinator, you will be notified to come and review the draft report. You cannot take the draft with you, but you can review it and take notes. You have 5 days to respond to the draft in writing. Your response to the draft cannot exceed 5 pages, 12-point font, 1 inch margins (please refer to page 24, section “Opportunity to Respond to the Draft Report”, of the Sexual Misconduct Policy).
- Your response (in #7) may include, but is not limited to:
- Additional questions you believe should be asked of other parties or witnesses;
- New evidence you believe is relevant; and
- The impact of the situation on you.
- After you submit your response to the draft, the investigator will prepare the final report for the Title IX coordinator’s review.
- We will contact you to schedule a time to meet with the Title IX coordinator and the investigator, to be notified of the outcome. You will receive this outcome in writing, along with the opportunity to review the final report, at this meeting. You cannot take the final report with you but you can take notes on it. We will also inform you of the next steps during this meeting.
If you have concerns about the investigation process, you may speak with the investigator, who will respond to these questions. In addition, you may wish to have an advisor accompany you to your meetings with the investigator. You have the right to bring up to two support people with you to any interview/meeting. You may elect to involve legal counsel as one of these support persons, but they are not permitted to act in a legal capacity during interviews and other meetings that the university has with persons involved.
Respondents will be interviewed and will have the opportunity to fully describe their experiences to the investigator. If there is evidence to establish that you have been falsely accused, that will be considered in the investigation.
In order to clearly articulate your experience to the investigator, it is suggested that you:
- Remember/write down as many details as possible about the events that transpired, whether or not you consider them to be important.
- Compile a list of possible witnesses who can lend credibility to your statement.