Policy on Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 or VAWA
Under VAWA, effective March 7, 2014, Title IV schools are required to:
- Adopt policy to address and prevent sexual offenses or acts of sexual violence,
- Report campus crime statistics beyond the crime categories the Clery Act already mandates
- Offer training to incoming students and new employees promoting the awareness of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and consent
- Offer ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns to the school’s community on these issues
This document has been designed to inform all students and employees of the Violence Against Women Act and it emphasizes Meridian University’s commitment to the health and safety of our students and employees. The policy explains how our school addresses and promotes awareness of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and rape, stalking and consent. Each year we provide this policy with updated statistics to all our prospective students and staff. It is also reviewed with all students during orientation and with staff at the time of hire. Annual training is provided by local law enforcement officials and/or local crisis centers to help emphasize the necessity of awareness and to provide different options for reducing the risk of becoming a victim of sexual offenses or sexual violence. It includes education on the warning signs of abusive behavior and how to avoid potential attacks. The school’s Campus Security Coordinator, the Administrative Director, is committed to making this school a safe place for all to receive an education.
Sexual offenses or acts of sexual violence, including domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking are illegal regardless of the victims’ gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression and as such are strictly prohibited.
Remember, VAWA protects the rights of ALL victims of sexual offenses or acts of sexual violence, regardless of the victims’ gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Definitions and Examples
Abuse committed against an adult or a minor who is a spouse or former spouse, cohabitant, or someone with whom the abuser has a child or is having a child, has an existing dating or engagement relationship, or has a former dating or engagement relationship.
Example: Jane, a student just broke up with her boyfriend Dick a few days ago. He just appeared on her doorstep yelling, kicking the door and threatening to do her bodily harm if she does not open the door right now. He has been physically abusive to her in the past but she kept it to herself. Dick is becoming quite angry and she hears him repeatedly calling her a “slut”. He demands that she open the door. She is extremely frightened. He tells her he is not leaving until she opens the door.
Violence committed by someone: a) who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim and b) where the existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of the following factors:
- the length of the relationship
- the type of relationship
- the frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship
Example 1: Jim and Jan have been dating for a few months. One day they are sitting on the couch watching TV together and Jan starts talking. Jim becomes angry with her talking and tells her to shut up or he will shut her up and he shakes his fist at her. Then he stands up and kicks the coffee table.
Example 2: Matt has started dating Mindy. Mindy is constantly on edge about remembering to check in with Matt. The relationship has become sexual and Matt has demanded they date each other exclusively and that Mindy should only see and talk to people Matt approves of. Mindy wants out of the relationship but is afraid to tell Matt for fear the interaction will become physical.
The term “sexual assault” is defined as engaging in physical sexual activity without the consent of the other person. An act of sexual assault may involve:
- Physical force, violence, threat, or intimidation
- Ignoring the objections of the other person
- Causing the other person’s intoxication or incapacitation through the use of drugs or alcohol
- Taking advantage of the other person’s incapacitation, including his or her voluntary intoxication, his or her state of intimidation, or other inability to consent
Example 1: Alex and Kris are at a party and both are drinking heavily. Alex is having trouble standing up, so Kris leads Alex over to a couch where Alex can lie down. Alex passes out and wakes up to find Kris on top of her, engaging in sexual activity.
Example 2: Terry and Leslie are working late on clients at the school salon. Terry thinks Leslie is being nice when Leslie offers to walk Terry home. Terry invites Leslie inside the house so they can continue their conversation. Leslie starts to kiss Terry, and Terry readily kisses Leslie back. Leslie starts touching Terry’s genitals. Terry pushes Leslie’s hand away and says, “No, I don’t want to.” Leslie becomes more forceful, and continues to fondle Terry’s genitals despite Terry saying, “No!”
The term ‘‘stalking’’ is defined as behavior in which a person repeatedly engages in conduct directed at a specific person that places that person in reasonable fear of his or her safety or the safety of others
Example 1: Adrian meets Jesse through a class group project. The group members exchange telephone numbers and Jesse calls Adrian for help with the project. As the quarter goes on Jesse repeatedly asks her out on a date and he refuses to take no for an answer. Adrian is in fear of her safety and tells him that she is not interested in dating him, but Jesse continues with this behavior that is unwanted and unwelcome by Adrian. He repeatedly texts her throughout the day despite her requests that he stop texting her. Before each group meeting, Jesse waits outside the classroom to greet her, “What took you so long? I’ve been waiting for you for almost an hour, but I don’t mind.”
Example 2: Julian recently met Ashley, who works on campus. They’ve gone out a few times, always meeting at a public place, never at either person’s home. Julian thinks these dates have been fun, but knows there isn’t a serious future with Ashley and has told Ashley so. The next day, when Julian arrived at home, there were several notes left on the door from Ashley. The same thing happened again four times that week, with the same message asking if Ashley can have just one more chance. Julian, now in fear of her safety, arrives at home and sees Ashley sitting in a parked car staring directly at Julian’s house.
Consent is defined by the following:
Informed: Consisting of an affirmative, unambiguous, conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity.
Voluntary: Given without coercion, force, threats, or intimidation. Positive cooperation in the act or expression of intent to engage in the act pursuant to an exercise of free will.
Revocable: Consent to some form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. Consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual encounter and can be revoked at any time. Once consent has been revoked, sexual activity must stop immediately.
Consent is given when a person is not:
- Physical and/or mental inability to make informed, rational judgments
- States of incapacitation include, but are not limited to, unconsciousness, sleep, and blackouts
- Where alcohol or drugs are involved, incapacitation is defined with respect to how the alcohol or other drugs consumed impacts a person’s decision-making capacity, awareness of consequences and/or ability to make fully informed judgments.
A person cannot give consent if he or she is:
- Unconscious or coming in and out of consciousness
- Under the threat of violence, bodily injury, or other forms of coercion, or if his/her understanding of the act is affected by a physical or mental impairment
Other considerations with regard to consent include:
- Silence does not equal consent, lack of verbal resistance does not constitute consent and lack of physical resistance does not constitute consent. Consent is not indefinite; consent may be withdrawn at any time, and at that time all sexual activity must cease unless or until additional consent is given.
- Minors and incapacitated persons cannot give consent. Whether the accused knew, or a reasonable person should have known, that the complainant was incapacitated
Most people want to help in difficult situations but may incorrectly assume that someone else will take action.
Phenomenon known as Diffusion of Responsibility
Each bystander’s sense of responsibility to help decreases as the number of witnesses increases. The end result is that nobody speaks up, comes forward, or helps.
This is not bystander apathy. People may be truly concerned about the welfare of the victim, but sincerely believe that someone else will help or that another person is either more likely or more qualified or more capable to help.
What should you do?
Specific interventions can be divided into four main types:
- Engage: say or do something that directly engages one or more of the parties involved
- Distract: say or do something to interrupt the interaction
- Enlist: ask for the help of someone else who may be better able to intervene
- Delay: say or do something after the difficult moment or incident has passed
How do you decide what to do?
Things to consider before you act:
- Is the situation an emergency or non-emergency?
- Should intervention be direct, indirect or both?
- Take someone’s keys away, drive the person home
- Remove the person from the situation
- Administer CPR
- Call 911
- Seek assistance from a professional
- Distract the people involved
- Enlist help from others
Talk to the person directly about the situation
Speak to and get help from someone with more expertise and/or authority: your campus Director, a campus administrator, or other professional
- Choose a course of action, direct or indirect, that best ensures the safety of those involved, including yourself
- Take action before the problem becomes worse
- Implement specific helping skills depending on the situation
Identifying Warning Signs
Identifying some of the warning signs that may lead to a sexual offense or an act of sexual violence. These behavioral warning signs may include, but are not limited to:
- Jealousy: excessive questions about who a partner spends time with
- Controlling Behavior: not allowing a partner to make personal decisions
- Isolation: curtailing a partner’s social interaction
- Verbal Abuse: saying things about or to a partner that are meant to be cruel
- Blame-shifting for feelings and problems: blaming a partner, family, or the School for one’s own inabilities or lack of responsibility
- Making threats of violence: saying things like “If you talk to him/her again, I’ll kill you.” Or “If you leave me, I will kill myself.”
What to say
If you suspect someone you know is a victim of a sexual offense or an act of sexual violence, talking with them about it can be difficult. The most important thing you can do is to let them know that they have support and that they do have options.
Some guidance on what to say and do can include:
- Offer your support without judgment or criticism
- Tell him or her that you’re concerned for his or her safety
- Encourage him or her to get help
- Try to avoid a confrontation while doing so
Avoiding Potential Harm
It’s important to remember that while we can take steps to minimize risk, the only person to blame when a sexual offense or an act of sexual violence happens, is the perpetrator. There are strategies you can use for placing yourself in the best position to avoid harm and to minimize the risk of a sexual offense or an act of sexual violence. Some of these strategies include:
- Trust your gut instincts. If a situation doesn’t feel right, don’t worry about offending people, just leave.
- Notice when someone doesn’t respect your boundaries. Do not be afraid to assert your right to have your boundaries respected.
- Understand that most perpetrators of sexual violence look for someone in a vulnerable position. This understanding can help guide your actions and choices
Other strategies for placing yourself in the best possible position to avoid harm and minimize risk include:
- Control access to your home or dorm room and your car by locking your doors and not leaving windows wide open.
- Use “situational awareness” by noticing where you are and who’s around.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help in situations that feel unsafe, such as asking for an escort to your parked car or asking people to walk with you.
- Travel in groups when possible and appropriate.
Reporting and Offense
A sexual offense or an act of sexual violence can be very frightening and disorienting. Often, victims do not know where to turn or how to reach out for assistance and help. If you’ve been involved in a sexual offense or an act of sexual violence, you are encouraged to:
- Find a safe place
- Seek medical attention
- Get support
- Preserve evidence
- Report the crime
In addition, as the victim of a sexual offense or an act of sexual violence, you are also encouraged to report this to Meridian University’s Administrative Director or any manager, supervisor, department head, or other designated employee.
Even if you are a bystander witnessing, or received a report of, a sexual offense or an act of sexual violence, you are encouraged to reach out to any of these resources for guidance and assistance.
Investigation and Disciplinary Proceeding
Campus proceedings to investigate and institute disciplinary action for sexual offenses or acts of sexual violence will:
- Provide a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation and resolution
- Be conducted by trained officials
- Use the standard of evidence set forth in the applicable policy
Both the accuser and the accused will have the same rights to have others present during an investigation and disciplinary proceedings, including an advisor of their choosing.
Investigation and Disciplinary Proceedings
All parties involved in investigation and disciplinary proceedings will be informed simultaneously in writing of:
- Initial outcome of the proceeding
- Appeal rights
- Subsequent changes to the result, resulting from an appeal
To the extent permitted by law, Meridian will protect the confidentiality of victims by omitting victim identifying information from publicly available documentation.
Disciplinary Actions and Sanctions
The following disciplinary actions and sanctions may be imposed, as appropriate, if a person is found to have committed a sexual offense or an act of sexual violence:
- Termination of employment
Perpetrators of crimes may also be subject to criminal prosecution.
Depending on the circumstances and if reasonably available, victims may also request assistance with changing their academic, living, transportation and/or employment situation(s), regardless of whether he or she chooses to report the sexual offense or act of sexual violence to campus or local law enforcement.
We hope this policy is helpful to all concerned and will help us to keep our campus a safe and pleasant learning environment.