Traumatic Experiences

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Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment

Sexual assault is sexual contact initiated against a person without his or her consent. Consent cannot be inferred from passivity or silence; nor can the existence of a current or previous relationship constitute consent. One in four women are sexually assaulted during their college years. Nearly 85% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. Most acquaintance rapes involve drug or alcohol use.
 
Examples of sexual assault include:
  • Completed or attempted rape
  • Threats of rape
  • Sexual coercion
  • Unwanted sexual contact with force or threat of force
  • Stalking
Symptoms of trauma due to a sexual assault include:
  • Jumpiness, irritability
  • Edginess, not feeling safe
  • Hypervigilance, hyper-awareness
  • Mood changes, bouts of sadness
  • Missed classes, changes in performance
  • Heightened sensitivity to touch
  • Withdrawal or disruptions within relationships
  • Spacing out
  • Difficulty concentrating and studying
  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares
Sexual harassment is unwanted, unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or other verbal, written, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is either:
  • explicitly or implicitly made as a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic status; or
  • is used as a basis for an employment or an academic decision affecting that person.
Harassing behaviors may include:
  • Attempts to communicate via phone, email, websites, chat groups, FAX, letters
  • Giving unwanted gifts
  • Displays of sexual material
  • Unwanted physical contact
Wellesley College’s Student-to-Student Sexual Misconduct Policy can be found here
 
Wellesley College’s Resources for Student Survivors of Sexual Misconduct, located here, contains information about medical, psychological, pastoral, safety, and administrative resources available to a Wellesley College student survivor of sexual misconduct. It provides the following information:
  • Immediate steps to take following an act of sexual misconduct;
  • Next steps: accommodations, reporting, pursuing institutional response;
  • Support for peers and community members, and additional resources;
  • Related information: educational programs, educational programs, related college policies and complaint procedures, Clery Act, legal definitions.
Wellesley College’s Policy Against Sexual Harassment and Unlawful Discrimination can be found here.  This document outlines resources and options for students who may have been subject to sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination by a College faculty or staff member, and describes examples of unprofessional conduct and inappropriate romantic relationships between College faculty/staff and students.
 
If a student has any questions regarding any issues of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, sex discrimination, any other types of unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation, or this policy, she may consult the Dean of Students or the College’s Title IX Coordinator:
 
Dean of Students: Debra DeMeis; ddemeis@wellesley.edu, 781-283-2322, 244 Green Hall
Title IX Coordinator: Kathryn Stewart; kstewart@wellesley.edu, 781-283-2214, 136 Green Hall

 

What To Do
Avoid
  • If a student tells you she has experienced a sexual assault, listen and offer support.
  • Check in with the student about how she is doing. Ask:
    • “How are you doing?”
    • “Who do you have to talk to about this?”
    • “How can I help?”
  • Affirm that she did not deserve this.
  • Respond with a caring stance that allows the student to feel a sense of control in choosing what action to take.
  • Listen without conveying judgment.
  • Be aware that survivors can feel shame, anger, and fear, and respond with denial and general signs of distress.
  • Encourage the student to call the Counseling Service for support.
  • In the case of sexual assault, gently encourage the student to call the Health Service (781-283-2810) for medical attention.
  • Refer the student to the College’s Student-to-Student Sexual Misconduct Policy here and “Resources for Survivors of Sexual Misconduct” here
  • Report a sexual assault yourself. Whether or not the student chooses to make a report, you can report the assault yourself on an anonymous report form available through Campus Police, to help track assaults on campus.
  • Pressuring and insisting that the student seek medical attention or file a police report. This could discourage the student from seeking help at her own pace.
  • Expressing judgment even when high risks behaviors are expressed on the part of the student (such as excessive drinking or walking alone at night).
  • Asking intrusive or judgmental questions: “Why did you trust her/him?” “Are you sure?”
  • Downplaying the  situation.
  • Expecting the student to take action or make quick changes.
  • Assuming anyone else knows about the assault and/or harassment.

Dating and Interpersonal Violence

Abusive relationships can exist irrespective of the sex and gender of each partner. Abusive relationships often involve a repeating pattern of verbal, sexual, emotional and physical abuse that increases over time.
 
Signs of an abusive relationship include:
  • verbal abuse
  • isolation from friends and family
  • fear of abandonment
  • fear of partner’s temper
  • fear of intimidation
  • acceptance of highly controlling behavior
  • assuming responsibility for the partner’s abusive behavior
  • feeling trapped
  • feeling ashamed
  • fear of leaving the relationship

 

 

What To Do

Avoid

  • If a student tells you that she is a victim of relationship violence, listen to her and offer support.
  • Check in with the student about how she is doing. Ask:
    • “How are you doing?”
    • “Who do you have to talk to about this?”
    • “How can I help?”
  • Affirm that the student did not deserve this.
  • Offer a caring response that allows the student to feel some control in choosing what action to take.
  • Listen without conveying judgment.
  • Be aware that interventions from a variety of sources increase the chances for change.
  • Refer the student to the Counseling Service for support.
  • Encourage the student to call Campus Police when sexual harassment or violence is involved.
  • Encourage the student to connect with family and friends.
  • Downplaying the situation.
  • Lecturing the student about poor judgment.
  • Expecting the student to make quick changes.
  • Assuming anyone else knows.

 

 

Stalking/Intrusive Contact

Some students find themselves victimized by unwanted intrusive contact by others. In most situations an individual is dealing with an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, but others can become targets of obsessive attention by someone they do not know or with whom they have not been in a relationship.
 
Stalking behaviors include:
  • Following the student with or without her knowing
  • Secretly waiting for the student to arrive home
  • Making inappropriate phone calls to the student
  • Obsessively communicating either directly to or through friends of the victim
  • Communicating with increasing frequency and intensity
  • Can include threats and intimidation, but mostly consists of annoying behaviors

 

What To Do

Avoid

  • If a student tells you that she is a victim of stalking, listen to her and offer support.
  • Check in with the student about how she is doing. Ask:
    • “How are you doing?”
    • “Who do you have to talk to about this?”
    • “How can I help?”
  • Affirm that the student did not deserve this.
  • Offer a caring response that allows the student to feel some control in choosing what action to take.
  • Listen without conveying judgment.
  • Know that the student may be distracted, anxious, tense, sensitive and jumpy.
  • Understand that some young people have enormous tolerance for this type of harassment and do nothing, hoping it will go away.
  • Encourage them to call the Counseling Service for support.
  • If the student admits to being afraid, the situation may be dangerous; encourage the student to consult with Campus Police or do so yourself.
  • Downplaying the  situation.
  • Lecturing the student about poor judgment.
  • Expecting the student to take action or make quick changes.
  • Assuming anyone else knows.

Hazing

Students attending Wellesley have the opportunity to join a wide range of groups, including athletic teams, societies, performing arts ensembles, religious groups, public service organizations, and others. A large majority of our students belong to some form of student organization or extracurricular group. These groups typically provide positive out-of-the classroom learning experiences, and in many cases are important platforms for social, cultural, and interpersonal support. Entry into some of these groups may involve formal or informal initiation practices, which, in and of themselves, are not harmful to a student’s academic experience. However, there are times when these practices become hazing and are detrimental to the student.
 
Although initiation practices generally help new members become a part of a group, research and experience have taught us that when policies are not observed, they can constitute hazing. Hazing takes various forms, but typically involves endangering the physical health of an individual or causing mental distress through:
  • Humiliation
  • Intimidation
  • Demeaning treatment
  • Pressure to drink alcohol, sometimes dangerous amounts
 
Being hazed is serious and can have significant effect on one’s physical and emotional health, and often impairs a student’s academic performance.
 
Symptoms may include:
  • Fatigue, having a difficult time staying awake or sleeping in class
  • Unkempt appearance, or wearing conspicuously strange or silly clothing
  • Falling behind in her/his work or performance
  • Change in attitude or personality in class
 
Wellesley College’s complete policy on hazing can be found at: http://www.wellesley.edu/studentlife/aboutus/handbook/campus/hazing
 

What To Do

Avoid

  • Speak with the student in a private setting.
  • Describe the behavior, appearance and/or demeanor that concerns you.
  • If the student describes being hazed, tell the student that if she wants to talk further about what is going on confidentially, she can meet with a member of the Counseling Service.
  • Contact the student's Class Dean.
  • Telling the student that the group she has joined is stupid for making new members go through initiation rituals.
  • Promising to keep the hazing disclosure confidential.
  • Laughing away the hazing as a college rite of passage.

 

Bias/Hate Crime or Hateful Incident

When you become aware that a student has experienced a hateful incident or bias/hate crime, as explained below, recognize that the student may be experiencing a wide range of emotions including shame, anger, fear, and denial. The student will benefit from a caring response that allows her to feel some level of control in choosing the action to address the crime or incident.
 
Under Massachusetts State criminal law a "hate crime'' is any criminal act coupled with overt actions motivated by bigotry and bias including, but not limited to, a threatened, attempted or completed overt act motivated at least in part by racial, religious, ethnic, handicap, gender or sexual orientation prejudice, or which otherwise deprives another person of his constitutional rights by threats, intimidation or coercion, or which seek to interfere with or disrupt a person's exercise of constitutional rights through harassment or intimidation.
 
In some cases, students may experience hateful incidents in which it is not clear to them whether a crime has been committed. If the student believes she is the victim of a crime or needs further guidance on this matter, she can contact Campus Police (781-283-2121) and, if appropriate, other local police agencies, so that the matter can be addressed and support services made available.
 
Students who have questions or need support in response to hateful incidents may also contact the Dean of Students office at 781-283-2322 for more information.

 

What to Do

Avoid

  • Know that students experience a wide range of emotions including shame, anger, fear, and denial.
  • Give a caring response that allows the student some level of control.
  • Encourage the student to get support through the Counseling Service.
  • Encourage the student to report the incident to Campus Police.
  • Direct the student to the Dean of Student’s office for information on the College’s Policy on hateful incidents and options available to her.
  • Downplaying the situation.
  • Expecting the student to make quick decisions.
  • Pressuring a student to file a report with Campus Police or an Honor Code charge.

 

 

 

Related

Debra DeMeis
Debra DeMeis
Dean of Students More

 

 

Contact Us

Office of the Dean of Students
 


Green Hall 344
Wellesley College
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481

Linda Hilts
Executive Assistant
Tel: 781.283.2322
lhilts@wellesley.edu