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Los Angeles, CA
US

424-777-EROC

End Rape on Campus (EROC) is a survivor advocacy organization dedicated to ending sexual violence through survivor support, public education, and policy and legislative reform.

We provide free, direct assistance to all survivors of gender-based and sexual violence on campus interested in filing federal complaints, organizing for change, or drawing public attention to hold their schools accountable.

We have assisted hundreds of students at dozens of schools file Title IXClery Act, and other civil rights complaints to seek justice and reform.

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Tell Northeastern Survivors are Complainants, Not Witnesses.

Northeastern University prevented a survivor from serving as the complainant in her own case, and instead, made her the "witness" to her own assault. Tell Northeastern to change and enforce its policies to support survivors and comply with Title IX.

During the 2015-2016 school year, Maria* was sexually assaulted by a Northeastern University student. When she reported to university police, Maria alleges that the university  denied her the right to serve as the complainant in her own sexual assault case. Instead, as Maria stated, “the Northeastern University Police Department, all paid employees of Northeastern, were to serve as the Complainant. I was to serve as their witness at [the campus hearing] that was scheduled without my input.” Annie Clark, Executive Director at End Rape on Campus, commented, “in our experience across the country, the survivor of sexual assault is the complainant, rather than University Police.”

Maria stated that because she was a witness, rather than a complainant, she wasn’t given the same opportunities to present evidence, witnesses, and character references as the alleged assailant. Instead, Maria was questioned about her past sexual history. Additionally, she didn’t have access to her police report, while the alleged assailant was given access to its content. Maria alleges that the university police met with one of Maria's two witnesses and called the second, who she spoke with on the phone for under 5 minutes but expressed no interest to present either at the hearing.

Maria later wrote a letter to Northeastern to detail her grievances and call for reform. “I never had the chance to stand up and address the conduct board or speak my story, nor will I ever have the chance to seek justice through your sanctioning process. That is the most upsetting, degrading, and absolutely humiliating part.”

Maria approached EROC with the hope that other survivors will not experience the same injustice. Maria and EROC are calling on Northeastern University to change and enforce to reflect the protections afforded under Title IX and provide survivors equal footing in the pursuit of justice.

Her demands are simple:

  • Every survivor should be able to be the complainant in their own case

  • Police should be trauma-informed

  • Communications must remain balanced between the perpetrator and complainant

  • The University Title IX office must remain in communication with the police

  • Undergraduate students should not be permitted to sit on the misconduct panel for sexual assault cases

  • Those under investigation for sexual violence should not be permitted to serve as an RA or other position that places them in charge over the well-being of students

Northeastern University,

I would like to start this letter by telling you that at one point Northeastern was a university I had quite a bit of respect for. It is needless to say that since the conduct process has begun my opinion has drastically changed. Northeastern has failed not only me, but countless other women pursuing justice for the sexual assaults they have experienced on your campus.

I reported the two incidents of sexual assault I experienced at Northeastern to the campus police last year. I had originally intended for the police report to be internal, however, after being interviewed by a detective I was notified that the Respondent would be contacted. After making the report I was given the option to proceed criminally and/or through Northeastern University’s Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCCR) process. I have since found out that my case could have been processed through the Title IX office instead, I was never notified of this option. To add to this, the hearing was scheduled both without my input and after a holiday weekend, making it difficult to contact the necessary officials in an appropriate time frame when questions arose. Throughout the sanctioning process I was constantly asking questions due to the lack of transparency regarding your policy and procedure. This unclarity left me confused and frustrated throughout the process, and despite the many questions I asked I felt I was never given definite answers.

Northeastern denied me the right to serve as the Complainant at the trial as I am not a student, even though there was no specific mention of this rule within the code of conduct nor was it deemed non-applicable to me on the sheet I signed like other non-applicable rights. Furthermore, I signed off on my non-applicable rights as a non-student, and serving as the complainant was never deemed as cause to pull me from having agency in my own case. In my initial meeting with the Hearing Administrator, the difference between the Complainant and the Witness was never explained to me. When my lawyer contacted your university's legal counsel regarding this matter he referred to page 8 in the Student Code of Conduct which states, "Any academic or administrative official, University staff member, faculty member, law enforcement agency, member of the community, or student may file a complaint involving any student or student organization”. The term "member of the community" leaves a lot of room for interpretation. I am someone who has spent a significant amount of time on Northeastern’s campus and in many ways I am someone who could be considered a member of your community. If non-students’ level of participation is truly a rule within your institution, then it should explicitly be stated as such.

The Northeastern University Police Department were to serve as the Complainant and I was to serve as their witness. Due to this, I was not afforded any of the rights that the Respondent was afforded. Northeastern provided the Respondent with a copy of the report which included documented conversations I had at the time of the events seeking help about the incidents, all that were disturbing, graphic, and traumatic. While I did not have any of these opportunities, the Respondent could provide witnesses, letters of recommendation of character, was given both an opening and closing statement, could be present the entire time, could indirectly ask me and my witnesses questions, and could use his attorney. The Respondent was given full knowledge of the situation while I would go into the hearing blind. Additionally, recommendations of character are irrelevant to the situation and should not be permissible in a conduct hearing. Northeastern gave so much power to the Respondent.

From the start, your university put me at a significant disadvantage. My opening and closing statements would have been provided by the Northeastern University Police Department and taken from my initial police report, which was a very short report I made in complete shock. Based on that report, Northeastern clearly did not have the information necessary to act as the Complainant. Additionally, your police department did not plan to present either of my witnesses despite having two listed on the report. During the initial investigation the Northeastern Detective assigned to my case only met with one of my two listed witnesses. She spoke with the second witness on the phone for under five minutes, far from the thorough investigation Title IX requires.

I was even more appalled when I was notified that the Northeastern Detective planned to provide a supplemental report to the conduct board stating the District Attorney had declined to prosecute. As I'm sure you are aware, the criminal standard is much higher, as they need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. However, Northeastern uses a "preponderance of the evidence" standard, and therefore only need to prove it was more likely than not that the code of conduct was violated (51% likelihood). Providing an open ended statement that the District Attorney declined to prosecute to a conduct board made entirely of students is prejudicial, irrelevant, unnecessary, and would have allowed for its inappropriate use during the school conduct hearing. It is very clear that there was both a lack of communication regarding policies as well as inadequate training provided the the Northeastern officials making the report.

To continue, after my initial questioning I was called and questioned about my previous sexual history by the Northeastern Detective who would represent me entirely during the hearing. This information about me was unrelated to the Respondent and should never have been asked. This furthers my concerns regarding the inadequate training provided to those involved in sexual misconduct cases. I was not provided with the opportunity to mention the fact that the Respondent was sanctioned for behavior of a sexual nature by Northeastern the year prior. That charge would not have been taken into account during the hearing. Given the inappropriateness, these factors could have negatively impacted how the case panned out. In addition to processing the difficult and disturbing events that occurred I was faced with your inequitable and unfair process where the odds were stacked against me.

Above all, despite my many concerns regarding the process, I was notified that the Respondent had withdrawn from the university just 48 hours before the scheduled hearing date. In fact, Northeastern scheduled the hearing in a new semester, giving the Respondent time to complete his final semester and withdraw without having any incomplete marks on his record. Your university unnecessarily exposed me to an intense amount of additional stress and trauma, only to notify me via email at the last minute that the Respondent had mitigated facing any consequences.

I never had the chance to stand up and address the conduct board or speak my story, nor will I ever have the chance to seek justice through your sanctioning process. That is the most upsetting, degrading, and absolutely humiliating part. Northeastern had me prepare to sit in the same room as someone who sexually assaulted me twice. Not to stand up for myself or read an impact statement, but to answer questions about what happened. The most Northeastern offered to do was put a curtain in between us and not allow him to directly question me. In the weeks leading up to the hearing date I was in a constant state of panic, only to be notified at the last minute that the Respondent had essentially walked out.

Not once did I get to explain the impact the two incidents had on me. The conduct board never heard about how my life has been irreparably changed. I never got to explain how I went from a happy, easygoing person to an angry and depressed person who isolated themselves from friends and family. That I yelled at anyone who tried to help me. Your conduct board never heard about the many phone calls I made in the middle of the night to crisis hotlines that winter, when I was unable to handle the pain alone. Your conduct board never heard that the stress and trauma caused me to lose twenty pounds or about how for months I woke my family up by screaming in my sleep.

Northeastern only heard the details that were unbelievably difficult for me to speak about. The most personal aspects of my life were put on display for complete strangers. I had to sit in a room with people I had never met and answer questions that caused me to relive the trauma I had already endured. I understand that information was necessary as part of the investigation and I respect that Northeastern followed through with that obligation. However, it does not change the fact that despite these conversations I never had opportunity for justice. Northeastern deprived me of control and autonomy in every sense. Any bit of control left was taken when Northeastern notified me that my case was not closed, but “indefinitely postponed”. I cannot walk away from this situation knowing it is behind me like the Respondent has the privilege of doing. Not only will I suffer the consequences for the rest of my life, I now have to live with the constant fear that the Respondent may return and the case will re-open. There is no prompt and equitable resolution to my complaint.

Your employees have continuously made me uncomfortable to the point of tears and have caused me an enormous amount of additional pain. Asking questions was like pulling teeth, and I was constantly embarrassed and ashamed when I did. Immediately after my initial OSCCR meeting, I spent 45 minutes crying in my car. There were many weeks where I had no idea what was transpiring and even up until days before the trial I was completely in the dark. Northeastern has completely disregarded communication from me on multiple occasions. In fact, when I reached out a week before the hearing I was notified that the hearing administrator was on vacation, never once had this information been previously discussed with me. I have serious concerns about how a hearing administrator could go on vacation up until two days of a sexual assault trial without noticing those directly impacted.

Northeastern discouraged me, silenced my voice, and set me up to fail. If Northeastern has received the training it claims in how to handle sexual misconduct, you would also benefit from a training in being compassionate human beings. Northeastern has created an inequitable process to protect themselves from the backlash of allowing someone with a previous charge for inappropriate sexual behavior to have an Resident Assistant position that provided him with the room keys of countless other women. Northeastern should seriously reconsider how much it cares about survivors of sexual assault, including members of their own community. I am completely appalled by the way this issue has been handled and on behalf of every other woman who has been or will be in my position I sincerely hope serious changes are made within your university.

**Please note that this letter is a condensed version of the one provided to Northeastern Administrators. EROC edited and republished the survivor's words with her assistance.


Step One: sign and share the petition.

Step Two: Call or Email Northeastern. Tell Northeastern to change and enforce their sexual assault policies using the following script:

Hello, My name is [NAME], and I am a [student/employee/concerned citizen] calling to ask that you reform your sexual assault prevention and response policies to keep all students safe and uphold the protections granted to students under Title IX.

Specifically, I want to encourage you to consider the following in reforming and enforcing your policies:

  • Every survivor should be able to be the complainant in their own case

  • Police should be trauma-informed

  • Communications must remain balanced between the perpetrator and complainant

  • The University Title IX office must remain in communication with the police

  • Undergraduate students should not be permitted to sit on the misconduct panel for sexual assault cases

  • Those under investigation for sexual violence should not be permitted to serve as an RA or other position that places them in charge over the well-being of students

[Please feel free to add a personal note or comment if you so choose]

Thank you for your time.

Mark Jannoni, Assistant Vice President for Title IX Initiatives &Title IX Coordinator
Phone: 617.373.3543
Email: m.jannoni@northeastern.edu

 





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