By Tess Sohngen, Senior Staff Writer
Many survivors of sexual assault may not be protected from their perpetrators on campus because they do not qualify for no contact orders.
A no contact order is a legal document issued by the Dean of Students that offers interim protection measures and prohibits the perpetrator from contacting the student. It is one of the first steps Miami University takes when a sexual assault case is reported and further investigated.
When a student reports a sexual assault through Miami University, he or she has three choices of action thereafter: file a complaint against a student perpetrator at the Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution (OESCR), ask for a university-led investigation through the Office of Equity and Equal Opportunity or choose to take no action against the accused, said Rebecca Getson, Miami’s sexual assault response coordinator.
Survivors who choose to take no action against their perpetrator cannot file a no contact order because there is no proceeding action in their sexual assault case.
“The university can’t sanction anyone without some disciplinary action,” said Susan Vaughn, the director of OESCR.
“Whether it’s an investigation or an OESCR process, there has to be something that we will eventually do,” said Getson.
Getson is the primary point of contact for survivors and the Deputy Title IX Coordinator.
Only after reporting the incident can the survivor obtain an interim no contact order from the Dean of Students and later a no contact order after an OESCR hearing.
“I think it’s a shame that they don’t offer no contact orders for these victim-survivors, even if they don’t want to go through the OESCR or police,” said Jane, a senior at Miami.
Jane is a survivor of a sexual assault that occurred on a different campus before she transferred to Miami her sophomore year. Because she didn’t want to go to police or go through an investigation, she said the university told her, “You’re on your own … there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Miami offers forms of protection to those who don’t have a no contact order, such as making scheduling and residency changes for the survivor, the accused or both. Getson said this is trickier because there’s no legal action behind the university’s attempts to keep the survivor and the perpetrator separate. With no contact orders, the burden falls on the accused to change class sections or residency or to leave a location when necessary.
One of Jane’s roommates had issues with a boyfriend who would become verbally abusive after drinking; he lived down the hall from them. Jane said he would bang on their door and yell at her roommate from the other side. After her roommate reported the issue, and the university moved the boyfriend to another residence hall, though the roommate had taken no legal action against him during the time he changed dorms.
“I think students just don’t know what their options are,” said Jane. “You don’t have to go through the OESCR office or the police to get help from the university.”
Jane now works with Getson through Women Against Violence and Sexual Assualt (WAVES), for which Getson is the advisor.
“What I see more often than not is that the victim-survivor wants to move because they want that control back,” said Getson. “They want to say ‘no, I know where that accused is now … I’ll move so that the accused doesn’t know where I am.’”
Getson said no contact orders “create that peace of mind” for both parties, but the enforcement of the no contact order falls on the survivor.
“Our enforcement really depends on the student to let us know. Unless someone tells us, we’re not going to know,” said Getson.
Jane sees the lack of effectiveness with no contact orders at the Middletown Municipal Court where she interns. She said many perpetrators continue to contact the victim-survivor even after signing the no contact order and some will even make phone calls to the survivor from prison.
“One of the biggest cons is that it is just a piece of paper … We find, though, for the most part, that people adhere to it,” said Getson.
When a perpetrator breaks the no contact order, the university can find the person in violation of that no contact order and the code of conduct and can change the terms of the interim no contact orders.
“If [the survivors] don’t want to go through our process, they can go through a civil process or a criminal one,” said Getson.
Both criminal and civil processes offer versions of no contact orders the university police can enforce.