Hi readers: this is my blogging debut! I just joined the SAFER team as the Policy and Research Intern and am currently a senior at Columbia University.
Hopefully by now you’re familiar with the Campus Accountability Project—SAFER’s national initiative with V-Day to build a comprehensive public database of student-submitted sexual assault policies. Essentially, student activists can call out their schools on what’s being done well but also what could use some improving. One of the aims of the project is to gather the best and the worst practices. When it comes to what really makes a good policy, which campuses are excelling and which ones are lagging behind? This week, we’ll examine Drug and Alcohol Amnesty Policies.
To start, an amnesty policy offers immunity from campus discipline for victims who were in violation of other school policies when assaulted (for example, for consuming alcohol or drugs). Students should not be discouraged from reporting a sexual assault because he/she had been consuming alcohol or drugs at the time. As Southern Arkansas University’s “Good Samaritan Provision“ states:
It is in the best interests of this community that as many victims as possible choose to report to University officials. To encourage reporting incidents of sexual misconduct, SAU pursues a procedure of offering victims of sexual misconduct limited immunity from being charged for policy violations related to the sexual misconduct incident.
Sadly, a mere 7% of the schools in our CAP Database currently have amnesty policies! With so many barriers to reporting already present, colleges and universities must encourage students to report in any way they can. It is absolutely necessary that campuses include an amnesty clause.
So whom can we look to for ideas? Drake University certainly encourages the reporting of assault and sexual misconduct. The Understanding Sexual Assault brochure devotes a whole paragraph to Victim and Witness Immunity, acknowledging that victims are often hesitant to report out of fear of getting charged with policy violations:
To encourage reporting, Drake offers immunity from University disciplinary action for lesser policy violations that students reporting the assault/sexual assault may have committed. The University will provide referrals to counseling and may require educational options, rather than disciplinary sanctions, in such cases. Excluded from this grant of immunity are all students accused of encouraging or voluntarily participating in the assault/sexual assault.
Drake isn’t the only University that includes this kind of immunity. Case Western Reserve also makes their amnesty policy easy to locate within the Sexual Assault Policy. It strongly encourages people who have been sexually assaulted to report, stating:
When conducting the investigation, the university’s primary focus will be on addressing the sexual assault and not on other university policy violations that may be discovered or disclosed.
University of Mississippi, University of Oregon, and Colgate University do not elaborate a whole lot but manage to make clear that victims should not let his or her use of alcohol or drugs be a deterrent to reporting the incident.
To give a few more examples, Bucknell University, Emory University, and University of Colorado Boulder all have immunity/amnesty clauses that are not sexual assault specific. They are not particularly emphasized with regards to their sexual assault policies, but the clauses are clearly stated and important nonetheless.
It is not hard to see why having an amnesty policy is essential in encouraging students to report sexual assaults, but the sad reality is that the majority of schools do not have one. This is a call to students everywhere: use these examples to start a movement. Your school too can have a drug and alcohol amnesty policy—it just takes activists like you to get it started!