The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 amended the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) by adding requirements to distribute written notifications in order to increase the transparency between institutions of higher education and students and employees. The notifications explain the rights, options and resources for victims of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking. This amendment created three requirements for these notifications:
- Requirement #1: Notify students and employees both within the institution and in the community about services available, including counseling, health, mental health, victim advocacy, legal assistance, visa and immigration assistance, student financial aid, as well as other services available for victims.
- Requirement #2: Notify victims about options for, available assistance in and how to request changes to: academic situations, living situations, transportation situations, working situations, protective measures.
- Requirement #3: Provide students and employees with a written explanation of their rights and options in the event they are a victim of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence or stalking.
Some institutions struggle with how to include all the relevant information in their written notifications while keeping the document succinct. The goal is to publish clear documents that meet both the letter and the spirit of the law. Below are recommendations for providing the required information.
Format of the documents: Feedback from the school community can help determine how best to present the information. Some schools publish the information in pamphlets or pocket-sized booklets; almost all schools post the information on a website. Institutions cannot meet the requirements of the law by giving individuals a copy of the annual security report.
Tone of the documents: The required notifications should be prepared in such a way that victims of trauma can access the information without difficulty. The documents should clearly and directly explain what a student or employee’s options are and how to pursue them, and should include options for special accommodations and how to request them.
Content of the documents: The material should include the names, titles, hours of availability and contact information for individuals and offices where services are available. These options should be inclusive of all individuals and be available to anyone within the campus community.
The information in the documents should give students and employees a clear and accurate picture of what to expect when they report an incident. The written notifications should explain:
- Why it is important to seek medical attention;
- How to access confidential support services;
- What the different options are for reporting, both on and off campus; and
- What the response process looks like at the institution, including both the formal disciplinary process, and how institutions will address special accommodations for victims who request them.
How to distribute the information: The information must be distributed annually, via email or print, to all students and employees. It is a good practice to also post the information on a website devoted to available services so that students and employees can access it year-round.
Finally, the information should be reviewed annually for accuracy and to make sure that those who disseminate the information can explain more about the services if asked.