During the Q&A session of Wagatwe Wanjuki’s lecture for Take Back the Night, the issue of mandatory reporting was raised again, in front of the Knox faculty in attendance. “Mandatory reporting” refers to the practice of requiring all professors, staff and RAs to report any instance of sexual harassment or assault that they become aware of to the administration and was recently implemented on the Knox campus.
Effectively, this policy means that survivors of sexual assault and harassment must be ready to have a report filed on their behalf before they are able to confide in any of the above mentioned persons. Not surprisingly, the school’s stance lead to students directly asking the administration to repeal mandatory reporting.
One common argument for mandatory reporting is the need to provide the government with accurate figures about violence on campus, under Title IX as well as other statutes. I believe these statistics are very important for students, be they current or prospective.
While mandatory reporting certainly strives for generating accurate statistics, there are much better policies that could be in place. For instance, it would be possible to create statistics for the government without filing an official report of sexual harassment or assault.
Under this method, the fact that a crime occurred would be recorded, but an official report/investigation would only be launched if the victim decides that they wish to do so. Changing the mandatory reporting policy would be a small process for college administration to go through, but the restoration of the power to decide their best course of action would make a world of difference to survivors.
Under Knox’s procedure, counselors are not included under the mandatory reporting policy. However, this outlet does not provide enough assistance or choice for survivors of sexual violence. The obvious problem with only having the small office of counselors available as a safe space for survivors to talk is the availability of the counselors.
Knox’s counseling office is set-up to service all Knox students in need of time with a professional. Often, this results in appointments needing to be made far in advance. The busy schedule of the counseling office limits the options of survivors who may need immediate help, but for whatever valid reason of their own do not wish to file a report. Simply adding to the counseling department would only fix one part of the problem, however.
Safe spaces are fundamental to helping survivors receive the best possible support for themselves. By limiting the safe spaces to the counseling center, the school essentially forces those in need of a safe space to accept whatever counselor the school has available.
Thus, the power of the survivor is again restricted, as they may feel more comfortable talking to someone of a similar background as themselves rather than the next available counselor.