ATIXA Research Award Grant Recipient Four-Part Blog Series: Part III

Part III of IV: Faculty and Staff Experiences and Perceptions of Mandated Reporting (MR)–The Results

By: Christina Mancini, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University, and Sarah Koon-Magnin, Ph.D., University of South Alabama

Participants

As is typical in survey research (Smith, 2008), the sample for our study was primarily female (60.0%). The overrepresentation of women may also be due to the subject matter of the survey—focusing on campus sexual assault. That is, a greater proportion of female faculty and staff may have responded to the survey invitation given that women are more likely to experience sexual victimization (DeKeseredy et al., 2018). Respondents were also disproportionately White (78.2%), and non-Hispanic (80.0%). Faculty (n = 66) from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds as well as staff members (n = 24) participated in this research, the majority of whom were employed by public (70.0%) four-year universities (79.1%).

Perceptions of Under Which Circumstances MR Should Apply

Respondents were provided a variety of circumstances to contextualize the type of assault that may be disclosed to trigger a mandatory report. Responses to this question may be especially useful to administrators because the impetus of mandatory reporting was the realization that while students may not report their victimization to law enforcement, they are likely to disclose to trusted professor or advisors. Specifically, participants were asked to, “Please indicate your level of agreement with each of the following statements. The following statements are asking for your opinion, not what is stated per your institution’s policy. In my opinion, mandatory reporting policies should apply to cases in the following circumstances.” 

As shown in Table 1, the greatest level of support was for “If the student wants it to be,” suggesting a preference for granting victim agency. The next most endorsed circumstances involved the general sense of campus safety: if the perpetrator is “considered an on-going threat,” or “an employee,” and if the assault “involved a weapon” or “physical violence,” respectively. The lowest mean rating was provided for “if the victim was sober at the time of the offense,” which suggests that the whether the victim was intoxicated had a lesser impact on these participants than the other factors considered. Finally, it is worth noting that the second lowest mean was provided for the statement, “All reports should be forwarded to the Title IX coordinator.” Though it is still a high mean (4.0 on a scale of 1-5), it was not endorsed as strongly as many of the other circumstances depicted here.

Table 1. Support for mandatory reporting policies in specific situations 
If the student wants it to be.4.61
If the perpetrator is considered an on-going threat.4.58
If the perpetrator is an employee.4.56
If the assault involved a weapon.4.45
If the perpetrator used physical violence during the assault.4.42
If the assault took place on campus.4.39
If the perpetrator was unknown to the victim.4.38
If the perpetrator is also a student.4.35
If the assault involved penetration.4.15
If the victim remembers specific details of the assault.4.15
All reports should be forwarded to the Title IX coordinator.4.00
If the victim was sober at the time of the assault.3.99

In three instances (“If the victim was sober,” “the perpetrator posed an ongoing threat,” “or the perpetrator was unknown to the victim”), confidential reporters were significantly more likely to support mandatory reporting policies relative to non-confidential reporters. The reasoning for this source of variability is not entirely clear. Perhaps because confidential reporters are aware that confidential resources exist (i.e., themselves), they see value in any measure purporting to assist victims and hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable.

Faculty and Staff Experiences with MR

The authors also asked respondents who had previously made MR disclosures to a Title IX Coordinator to reflect on their experiences. Generally speaking, there was a clear divide such that many participants reported positive experiences with their Title IX coordinator or MR responsibilities, but another group reported dissatisfaction. When asked an open-ended question relating to how they felt about reporting to the Title IX coordinator, one participant wrote, “Relieved that we have a process to assist students in needed.” And another, “Felt assured it would be handled appropriately.” However, the dissatisfied participants’ comments included, “I have had many sleepless nights trying to figure out how to keep a student’s confidence and trust while also fulfilling my role as a mandated reporter. It puts faculty like me in a terrible and stressful situation.” Another recounted, “I felt like I was passing the student off to someone else. I hate my reporting obligation because I know it is not a student-survivor-centered and healing process.”

References

DeKeseredy, W. S., Hall-Sanchez, A., & Nolan, J. (2018). College campus sexual assault: The contribution of peers’ proabuse informational support and attachments to abusive peers. Violence against Women, 24(8), 922-935. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801217724920

Smith, W. G. (2008). Does gender influence online survey participation? A record-linkage analysis of university faculty online survey response behavior. Education Resources Information Center. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED501717&context=elementary_ed_pub 

View Part IV of the blog series

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Tune in for the next installment where the authors share the implications of their findings!