Brown University
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons/ Kenneth C. Zirkel

Brown University launches anonymous reporting system for victims of sexual assault

Brown University has introduced an online reporting system which will enable students to make anonymous allegations of sexual misconduct, against other students, to college officials.

This comes after backlash that the school has dismissed multiple sexual harassment allegations in the past, with an organised socially-distanced protest condemning the university leadership’s ‘lackadaisical’ approach towards sexual harassment happening on campus in February.

The new system will allow students to anonymously report descriptions of incidents, alongside involved persons: alleged aggressors, harmed individuals, and witnesses.

However, the anonymous reporting is not the same as filing a formal complaint to the Title IX Office – an action that would automatically trigger an investigation.

The Ivy League college states: “the Sexual Violence and Gender-Harassment Incident Reporting Form will complement the university’s existing sexual misconduct guidelines to create a broader definition of sexual harassment.”

Davis, the University’s Title IX Coordinator, explained to the Brown Daily Herald that the form was the result of conversations with student activist organisations and has received an overall positive response. “The form adds an easily accessed and direct line of communication to the Title IX Office.”

Davis went on to explain how reports also facilitate support for victims by linking them to resources like Sexual Harassment and Assault Resources. 

 

“While the policy may improve the reporting system, it will not change the culture and community that is currently present on campus. We need to work toward both preventing sexual violence and supporting those who have experienced it.”

 

– Co-organiser of End Sexual Violence@Brown, Nina Faynshtayn

The new policy has been praised by some student groups as “liberating” as it will reduce barriers like shame and confidentiality, and encourage victims to break their silence.

Amanda Cooper, an outreach coordinator for the Voices of Brown, which is an Instagram account where students can submit personal accounts of sexual violence to be published anonymously on the page, said that she was excited to see the addition of the new policy to the University community. 

“The new sexual and gender-based misconduct policy is fantastic,” she told The Brown Daily Herald, explaining that it will effectively hold the university responsible for cases of sexual misconduct beyond its legal obligations.

However, responses have been mixed, with some fearing that the anonymous aspect of the system could prove to be a slippery slope.

Professor Amna Khalid, a historian at Carleton College in Minnesota, voiced her concerns regarding the bias nature of the system. “It’s a way for some people to come forward with stories about what’s happened, but if they are going to name the person but not be willing to put their name forward then it could become a way of targeting people they don’t like.”

Khalid highlighted that for the sake of accountability, campus authorities need to know the identities of accusers. 

Nina Faynshtayn, a co-organiser of End Sexual Violence@Brown, believes that the university should instead invest its resources into the needs of assault survivors. “While the policy may improve the reporting system, it will not change the culture and community that is currently present on campus. We need to work toward both preventing sexual violence and supporting those who have experienced it.”

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