University of Vermont

Frequently Asked Questions about Reporting

Complainants in sexual misconduct cases may choose to pursue:

  1. A criminal investigation;
  2. A non-criminal internal UVM investigation
  3. Both
  4. Neither.

The details about these options, and the processes associated with each, are described in greater detail below.

It is important to know that Title IX prohibits retaliation against complainants and witnesses who participate in investigations of sexual misconduct. UVM will take steps to prevent retaliation and will take strong responsive action if retaliation occurs. While it is your right not to participate in an internal or criminal investigation, refusal to participate in any investigation may limit the University’s ability to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct.

In appropriate circumstances, the University may provide interim measures (such as changes in room or class assignments, no contact orders, and extensions for completing exams or other course work) to both complainants and respondents in sexual misconduct cases. The Campus Victim's Advocate and/or the Dean of Students' Office can assist you with obtaining interim measures. The University also has its own Counseling Center. The counselors there are an excellent resource, and are available to meet with you confidentially as needed.

1. Criminal Investigation

If you have been the victim of sexual assault, domestic / relationship violence, stalking, or another form of sexual misconduct like voyeurism (a “peeping tom”), the University encourages you to consider making a report to police to assure your safety and / or to explore your options, including pursuing a criminal investigation. Reporting to police does not guarantee criminal prosecution, since the state’s attorneys (prosecutors) will ultimately have to decide whether there is enough evidence to move forward with your case. However, if you file a police report and want to pursue a criminal case, the police will conduct an investigation. It is important to consider that perpetrators can be repeat offenders, so reporting the behavior to police increases the chances that a perpetrator will be recognized as such, increasing the safety of our campus as a whole.

Which police agency will investigate my case?

It depends on what kind of crime it is, and where the crime occurred. Any crime that happens on the UVM campus can be reported to UVM Police Services. If the incident occurred someplace other than the UVM campus, you should report it to the police agency in the town where it occurred. If you need help figuring out where to report a crime, either the Campus Victim's Advocate or UVM Police Services can help you to identify which police agency to report it to. Often times, UVM Police Services can also assist you in making the report to the appropriate police agency. If you were sexually assaulted, chances are that your case will be referred to a special county investigative unit for sexual assaults. For example, the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations or “CUSI,” is the special investigative unit for Chittenden County, which includes Burlington and the UVM campus.

What will the process be like if I report to police?

If you call the police when an incident is still occurring or has just occurred, you may talk to a uniformed police officer first. S/he will make sure that you are safe (including getting medical attention, if needed). The officer will ask for some basic information from you about what happened, and may also ask to collect evidence in appropriate circumstances. After this initial meeting, your case will most likely be referred to a detective for further investigation. As described above, CUSI is a county-wide unit of detectives who are specially trained to investigate crimes like sexual assaults, and they investigate most sexual assaults that occur in our county. At the CUSI level, a detective will probably interview you, the perpetrator, and any other witnesses involved in your case. When the case is complete, CUSI will generate a report. If the detective feels that there is enough evidence to charge the perpetrator, the most important parts of the report will be put into an affidavit, which is a sworn report that is sent to the local criminal court in support of the charges. At around the same time, the perpetrator will be charged with the appropriate crime.

Will my report to police be private?

While your case is under investigation, it is exempt from the Vermont Public Records Act, and information that you share with police will not be made public. However, it will become a public record after the investigation is complete. That does not mean that the police will put identifying information about you and your case in a public place; it just means that if someone specifically requested information about your case, the police would probably have to give it to them once the investigation is complete. If your case results in criminal charges, the affidavit used to charge the perpetrator is also a public record, and anyone can request a copy from the court.

Will my parents or other family members find out?

As long as you are not a minor, no one is obligated to inform your parents or other loved ones about the case. If you are close with your family, though, you should consider telling them about what happened in whatever way is most comfortable for you. Family or good friends can be a really important support system, and it is a good idea to let at least a few people you are close with know about what happened, so that they can provide support and help you through a difficult time.

What will happen to the perpetrator?

If s/he is charged criminally, s/he will be arraigned on the charges. In very severe cases, the perpetrator may have to stay in jail to await trial. But in most cases, s/he will probably be released under conditions that the judge imposes, which will usually include a condition that s/he have no contact with you. It is very important that you let the police know immediately if the perpetrator is contacting or harassing you in any way.

If you fear for your safety and believe that the perpetrator may try to harm you, you can apply for a “relief from abuse order,” which will impose additional restrictions on the perpetrator’s ability to have any type of contact with you. If you feel you need a relief from abuse order, you can contact the Campus Victim’s Advocate, and she can assist you with the process.

If the perpetrator is a student or employee of the University, UVM must first know about the charges before it can take any action internally. The process for an internal UVM investigation is discussed in greater detail in the next section.

2. Internal (UVM) Investigation

UVM also encourages you to make an official report of the incident to the University. UVM strives to create a safe campus environment, and any violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy has a negative impact on the campus community. However, it is difficult for the University to address problems like sexual misconduct unless victims are willing to come forward.

When UVM receives an allegation that an employee or student has violated the Sexual Misconduct Policy, the University may conduct its own internal investigation, separate from the criminal investigation. At UVM, reports of sexual misconduct involving a student or employee perpetrator (also called a “respondent” in our internal process) are investigated by the University’s Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity (AAEO). The investigators who work for the AAEO office are specially trained to investigate sexual misconduct. If you strongly prefer to meet with an investigator of a particular gender, AAEO can usually accommodate such requests.

What will the process be like if I report to AAEO?

The investigator will invite you in to talk with him or her first, and you can bring a support person with you if you would like. The Campus Victim's Advocate sometimes fills this role, and has accompanied many people to AAEO interviews. If you would like to have the Campus Victim’s Advocate accompany you and serve as your support person, you can contact her by calling the UVM Women’s Center at (802) 656-7892. At the interview, the investigator will explain the process, go over your options with you, and give you an opportunity to ask questions. S/he will then ask if you would like to pursue a formal complaint through the University. If you decide to do so, the investigator will interview you about what happened. S/he will type a summary of the interview, email it to you to make sure it is accurate, and give you an opportunity to make changes if it isn’t. The finalized summary will serve as your formal complaint.

Next, the investigator will send notice to the accused – who is referred to as the “Respondent” in the internal UVM process –that s/he is accused of violating UVM’s Sexual Misconduct Policy. The Respondent will also have the opportunity to meet with the investigator to tell his or her side of the story. The investigator will then interview any witnesses who might have information about the incident. Everything that the investigator learns is compiled into a report, along with a determination of whether or not a UVM Policy violation occurred. Both you and the Respondent are entitled to a copy of the report, and the investigator will send it to both of you as soon as it is complete. If the Respondent is a student, some other University officials involved in the student conduct process (i.e., staff from CSES or the Dean of Students Office) may also receive a copy of the report. If the Respondent is a faculty or staff member, the people responsible for his or her supervision will also receive a copy of the report (i.e., a manager, Dean, or Vice President).

The AAEO office strives to complete investigations within two months (60 days). However, the length of the investigation process can vary depending on the nature of the case, the number of complainants, witnesses, and respondents involved, and when the report is filed. For example, when report is filed at the close of a term or during the summer, it can be difficult to get in touch with or interview students or faculty who may be witnesses.

If the AAEO investigation determines that a policy violation occurred and the Respondent is a student...

The investigation report will be sent to the Sexual Misconduct Sanctioning Panel (SMSP). The SMSP is a panel coordinated by the Center for Student Ethics and Standards that is comprised of specially-trained faculty and staff in accordance with UVM’s Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Three members of the panel who do not have any affiliation with the case will be selected to review the report, and decide an appropriate sanction. The Respondent can appeal both the finding of a policy violation and the resulting sanction to the Dean of Students. The procedures for filing an appeal, and the criteria on which appeals may be granted, are specified in UVM’s Sexual Misconduct Policy.

If the AAEO investigation determines that a policy violation occurred and the Respondent is a College of Medicine (COM) student...

The investigation report will be sent via the COM Dean of Students to the COM Committee on Fitness. The Respondent can appeal both the finding of a policy violation and the resulting sanction to the Dean of the College of Medicine.

If the AAEO investigation determines that a policy violation occurred and the Respondent is an employee...

The investigation report will be sent to the Respondent’s supervisor (i.e., a manager, Dean, or Vice President) to decide an appropriate sanction. The Respondent can appeal both the finding of a policy violation and the resulting sanction through appropriate University grievance procedures for faculty and staff.

If the AAEO investigation determines that NO policy violation occurred...

The investigator’s conclusion may be appealed to the Dean of Students (for student complainants), the Dean of the College of Medicine (for COM complainants), or to the Vice President for Human Resources, Diversity, and Multicultural Affairs (for employee complainants). The procedures for filing an appeal, and the criteria on which appeals may be granted, are specified in UVM’s Sexual Misconduct Policy.

Will my complaint to AAEO and any resulting reports be private?

For the most part, yes. Student records are private, and cannot be shared outside of the University without your permission. Employee records related to discipline are also generally private and exempt from public records requests. But as noted above, the Respondent is entitled to a copy of the report, because s/he has the right to see all of the information related to the charges against him or her. While the University can advise the Respondent to keep the information private, it cannot guarantee that s/he (or others that s/he may share it with) will do so. However, the University can and will inform the Respondent not to retaliate against you, which means that if s/he were to use the information in the report in a retaliatory way, it would likely result in additional charges and disciplinary action.

Will my parents or other family members find out?

As long as you are not a minor, no one is obligated to inform your parents or other loved ones about the case. If you are close with your family, though, you should consider telling them about what happened in whatever way is most comfortable for you. Family or good friends can be a really important support system, and it is a good idea to let at least a few people you are close with know about what happened, so that they can provide support and help you through a difficult time.

What will happen to the Respondent?

A finding that a student or employee violated the Sexual Misconduct Policy is likely to result in serious disciplinary action, up to and including separation from the University. However, depending on the severity of the alleged violation, a range of sanctions is possible, such as a temporary suspension or participation in Project Discovery or another program.

3. Both a Criminal and Internal Investigation

If you would like, you can pursue both a criminal and an internal investigation. UVM’s AAEO Office will try to coordinate its internal investigation with the related police investigation as much as possible. To avoid interfering with the criminal investigation, the AAEO investigator may ask you to sign a waiver, which will delay the internal investigation until the criminal investigation is complete. If you decide not to sign it, the AAEO investigation may have to occur at the same time as the criminal investigation. Under some circumstances, this could interfere with the criminal investigation.

4. Neither a Criminal Nor an Internal Investigation

If you make a complaint to a University employee, s/he must notify the Campus Victim’s Advocate, who will reach out to you to offer support and resources. The Campus Victim’s Advocate will also let the Title IX Coordinator know about your complaint. The Title IX Coordinator is responsible for making sure that the University complies with its obligations to address incidents of sexual misconduct appropriately, and that the University does everything that it can 1) to minimize the impact of any alleged sexual misconduct on the educational and/or work environment, and 2) to prevent it from happening again.

It is important to understand that you are not obligated to pursue a formal investigation or to work with the Campus Victim’s Advocate, and in most cases, if you decide that you do not want to pursue a formal investigation, nothing further will happen.

However, there are some circumstances where the University will move forward with an investigation and conduct process even without your cooperation. Some examples include 1) cases where the University is aware that the perpetrator has been involved in other incidents of sexual misconduct, and 2) cases where the perpetrator’s conduct was particularly severe, and therefore poses a continued threat to the University community.

Many employees are also required by federal law to file a Campus Security Authority Incident Report with UVM Police Services, without revealing your identity, so that the University can maintain and compile accurate crime statistics for the campus. While you are encouraged to file a criminal complaint if you have been the victim of sexual misconduct, this report is solely to comply with federal laws, and your name will not be shared with Police Services if you wish to remain anonymous.

Other Common FAQ's

If I was drinking when the incident I want to report occurred, and I am not 21, will I get in trouble?

No. As a general rule, UVM does not pursue student conduct violations related to drug use or to underage drinking against victims, perpetrators, or witnesses who cooperate in a sexual misconduct investigation. There are some exceptions; for example, if a perpetrator intentionally uses drugs or alcohol to subdue a victim, s/he can and will be held accountable. Likewise, if a group or organization affiliated with UVM knowingly serves alcohol to minors or provides drugs resulting in a violation of the Sexual Misconduct Policy, the organization or its representatives can be held accountable.

Does it cost anything to make a report?

No. Making a report to the police and/or internally to the AAEO office is completely free.

Last modified February 05 2014 02:56 PM