Responding to an SVSH incident in your organization/department

An incident of sexual violence or sexual harassment (SVSH) may have secondary impacts on friends, colleagues, and communities. If someone is affected by SVSH in a campus organization or department that you are a leader of, you’re likely wondering what to do. 

Each circumstance and group is different, so there is no one response that will work for everyone. However, the following guidance is intended to connect you with helpful resources and to act with intention. 

  1. Know your resources.

    1. The PATH to Care Center is a confidential resource that provides support for those who have experienced sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, stalking, and sexual exploitation. Advocates can help survivors or concerned supporters navigate their rights and reporting options, safety planning, academic and workplace supportive measures, medical care, and other resources. They can also provide consultation to groups or departments. For 24/7 urgent support, please call the Care Line: 510-643-2005. It can be helpful to connect the survivor with the PATH to Care Center and/or give them PATH to Care’s contact information.

    2. The Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD) is responsible for resolving complaints of harassment and discrimination including sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, stalking, and sexual exploitation. We can assist with academic and workplace supportive measures, no-contact directives, and more. We also provide consultation to groups or departments. 

    3.  The Notice of Rights and Options and Where to Get Support Quick Guides provide more resources and information. 

  2. Center the survivor. We encourage you to prioritize the needs, wishes, and autonomy of the survivor (the person who experienced the harm directly). Please respect any wishes for privacy that the survivor expresses. It is advisable to avoid talking about the specifics of the incident with others in your group or department unless they absolutely need to know or you have received consent from the survivor to talk about it. 

  3. Respond with care and concern. Organizational and departmental leaders who become aware of a possible incident or allegation are expected to respond with care and concern. If you are an employee of UC Berkeley, you may be required, as a Responsible Employee, to share what you learned about an allegation of sexual violence or sexual harassment with the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD). The Responsible Employee Quick Guide provides tips for responding with care and concern for anyone, not just Responsible Employees, as well as information for how to share information with OPHD. Even if you’re not required to report, you can always consult with OPHD and share as much or as little detail as you would like. OPHD can help connect you and the impacted person with supportive resources. 

  4. Please do not investigate. You should not attempt to investigate or determine whether an SVSH incident actually occurred. Resolution processes (formal and informal) and supportive measures are available through OPHD/Title IX to ensure appropriate due process and support for all involved parties. If organizations operate independently to discipline members outside of the SVSH process, there are liability risks under Title IX and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). If academic or administrative departments need to take independent disciplinary action, they are advised to consult OPHD.

  5. Addressing allegations. If a general member or leader of the organization or department is named as a respondent in an SVSH allegation, these are the options we may pursue to address the situation:

    1. If the survivor wishes to suspend, remove or have no contact with the respondent, the survivor should contact OPHD/Title IX to discuss options. OPHD/Title IX can ensure we are engaging in appropriate due process and exploring available resolution options. If a complainant wishes to pursue an investigation, supportive measures may include removing the respondent during the investigation. Alternatives to investigation, such as Alternative Resolution, could be employed to remove a member quickly. Additionally, a No Contact Directive may be issued to ease the complainant's concerns about having to engage with another member. These are things that can only come from OPHD/Title IX. Exploring options does not obligate anyone to a particular pathway, and conversations can even happen anonymously if there are confidentiality concerns.

    2. If other members of the organization or department wish to suspend or remove a member for SVSH allegations, they should contact OPHD/Title IX via email at: ask_ophd@berkeley.edu to discuss options. It is important not to take action that might harm a survivor, and OPHD can work directly with the survivor to understand their wishes and balance the groups’s concerns. If a survivor does not wish to take any action, it is important for the organization or department to respect that request.

    3. Continue to consult with a PATH to Care Center advocate to seek guidance on safety measures and wellbeing resources for those affected by the respondent. 

  6. Consult if you wish to plan a town hall or gathering. If your organization or department is contemplating a town hall or other gathering to address the incident, please be sure to consult OPHD and the PATH to Care Center before proceeding. The PATH to Care Center also provides Guidance for Academic Departments Wanting to Hold a Town Hall

  7. Prioritize prevention. It’s never too late for your organization or department to work on creating safe, inclusive environments that prevent violence. The PATH to Care Center is a good place to start for consultation