After interviews and constant follow-up phone calls, I can say for certain that the folks at Pilgrim and Associates Law Offices had it right when in their report they said UNM’s sexual assault reporting system was confusing.
The scope, depth and possibilities when reporting a sexual assault are endless, so for the sake of this investigation, I focused only on sexual assault as a policy violation and stayed away from questions about criminal cases for now.
I started at the UNM Police Department, where I explained that I was trying to follow the same path someone who was reporting a sexual assault would take. There it was recommended that I head to the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, who then suggested the Women’s Resource Center. And the Office of Equal Opportunity. And Dean of Students, the Provost and even Human Resources.
But the trail doesn’t stop there.
It is a massive surge of information once a report is filed.
Each office recommends each other, which is an effort to give survivors as much choice as possible. However, it left me overwhelmed. I constantly called my editor to flesh out ideas and brainstorm better ways to explain the process.
It didn’t help.
I was also confronted with the distinction between confidential and non-confidential reporting. Some departments on campus are required to give information about sexual assaults to other departments for reporting purposes. Unfortunately, that is not easily understood either. For many departments that process is not a two-way road and there are many stipulations in terms of detail to a given department.
In the end, I found myself stressed out and confused – and I was only investigating the process, not navigating it as someone who had been recently sexually assaulted.
In an ideal world, UNM would implement a one-stop shop on campus for sexual assault survivors. There they would receive counseling, medical help and file a complete police report if they chose to. At the very least there should be a simpler solution, a straightforward process that could easily be broken down into steps. The survivor would still have the option to enter the system wherever they chose.
For now, in an emergency situation I recommend a survivor goes straight to SANE and then to the WRC where the staff will debrief survivors on all of their options and rights, but will also act as an advocate. From there it is a survivor’s choice.
Lauren Marvin is the culture editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LaurenMarvin.