Survivors Rights

After experiencing sexual violence, it can be challenging to understand all your rights and options, especially when it comes to reporting the incident to the University or the police. You can always reach out and the staff at the SAFE place who can help explain things. Here are the basics:

Survivor Rights

  • The right to an advocate and advisor during any meeting with Equity Programs & Compliance (Title IX) or the right to an advocate during any legal proceeding or SAFE exam.
  • Written notification to survivors of their rights, options, and assistance the school is required to provide.
  • Written notification to students and employees about existing resources and services on campus and within the local community, including counseling, medical and mental health services, immigration and visa assistance, employment, financial aid assistance, and legal services.
  • Right to seek reasonable and available Interim Remedies from the University, even where the victim has elected not to file a Complaint. Such reasonable and available Interim Remedies may include but are not limited to: academic support, adjustments/changes to course schedules, changes to University-based housing and work schedules, and stay away orders issued to the Respondent.
  • Discuss options and services related to reporting or not reporting, for example, if student decides to report what to expect.
  • Support with navigating through the various campus and community processes and procedures related to reporting.

Reporting Options

For some survivors, making a report to authorities is an important part of their healing process. For others, reporting can be traumatizing. When reporting sexual violence there a few important points to keep in mind:

  • Your experiences matter, even if the system cannot respond in the way that you hope. Often survivors experience something that the system (The University or the Legal system) cannot respond to because it does not meet certain criteria.
  • You can make a report to the police or Title IX and ask them not to investigate or prosecute. However, if the respondent is known, the school or the police may be forced to respond, even if you ask them not to.
  • Once an investigation (police or Title IX) starts, survivors have little to no say in the process, the outcome or the next steps. A survivor may opt out of the investigation process, but the process itself will continue.

The outcome is the result of the investigation - not a judgement of your story or experience. Often, investigators will recognize that something happened, but won’t have the degree of proof they need to move forward.

Survivors who experience sexual violence committed by another member of the SFSU community (Student, Staff, Faculty or Contractors) can file a complaint with Equity Programs & Compliance (EP&C). Filing the complaint is relatively easy and can be done by meeting in person with a staff member of EP&C or completing an online complaint form. Confidential support is available to survivors wishing to file a complaint through The SAFE Place. More information about The SAFE Place (and how to make an appointment) can be found here:

Once a complaint is filed, EP&C will reach out to the survivor and offer support in the form of interim remedies. If the information in the complaint appears on the surface to reflect a violation of the University’s policies, EP&C will also review the options for next steps including an Investigation or Early Resolution:

Early Resolution: This is an opportunity for the parties and the University to resolve the complaint in a prompt, fair and reasonable manner without a hearing. At any time, either party (survivor or respondent) may suggest a plan (consisting of remedies and disciplinary sanctions) that has the potential of resolving the complaint. Once the parties and the Title IX coordinate agree upon the terms of the proposal all parties will sign it and the matter is considered resolved. A few important things to keep in mind about Early Resolution:

  • Both parties and the University must agree to engage in the Early Resolution Process
  • Any agreement (consisting of remedies and disciplinary sanctions) reached will have the full force and effect of the sanctions imposed following a hearing.
  • The terms of the agreement must be written down in a formal agreement and signed by both parties and the Title IX Coordinator
  • The agreement (once signed) will be considered to have resolved the matter and be final. Neither party has the ability to appeal the terms of the agreement.

Investigation: The purpose of an investigation is to determine if an SFSU community member’s behavior toward another individual violates the University’s Executive Orders regarding sexual misconduct. The investigation is conducted by a neutral investigator appointed by the University. The investigator speaks with each party separately, interviews witnesses proposed by each side and reviews all relevant corroborating information including but not limited to text messages, social media posts, e-mails, photos, audio recordings or police reports and medical records.

Once the information is gathered each party will have the opportunity to review the information, provide feedback and propose questions to the other party or the witnesses. Once the report is finalized, one of two things could happen:

  1. The investigator themselves could make the decisions. This typically happens when suspension or expulsion is not warranted based on the allegation, when the allegation is dating or domestic violence or when the respondent is staff or faculty.
  2. The case is set for a hearing. A hearing officer will review all the information gathered by the investigator, and question the parties and the witnesses in order to make the determination if a violation occurred and what sanctions are warranted.

 A few important things to keep in mind about Investigations:

  • Either party or the University can suggest early resolution at any time during the investigator or hearing up until the hearing officer or investigator issues their decision.
  • A party does not need to participate in the investigation and/or hearing, however that does not prevent the investigation and/or hearing from moving forward.
  • Lack of participation in the investigation/hearing impacts the information that the hearing officer or investigator can consider and therefore impacts the outcome.
  • The outcome of a hearing or investigation can be appealed (on certain grounds) by either party. 

Survivors can report incidents of sexual violence to the police. In doing this, survivors are asking the police to investigate whether the respondent’s behavior violates the law (penal code). For many, this is a hard process, but the system has built in supports. All survivors have the right to an advocate throughout the legal process who can explain the process, review the survivor’s rights and provide support. The SAFE Place will accompany survivors while making report to law enforcement or connect survivors to another local agency who can help.  More information about The SAFE Place and how to make an appointment can be found here.

There are several ways to file a report with the police:

  1. Call the police (911) and ask to have an officer meet you at your home.
  2. Go to the police station in the jurisdiction where the incident happened and ask to make a report.
  3. Reach out to The SAFE Place or SFWAR to see if the police will meet you there to take the report.

When making a report to the police, the first person you will speak with us a uniformed officer (who will gather as much information as possible. They will ask the who, what, when, where why, and how of the situation. They may also ask you to turn over any evidence you might have to support that a crime was committed. From there the case is forwarded to a detective (investigator) for further investigation. This is the officer that will interview witnesses. Survivors are typically re-interviewed and asked to provide additional details at this time. Once the police complete their investigation, they forward the case to the district attorney for review to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence to pursue prosecution under the law. A few important things to keep in mind about Police reports:

  • You do not get to press charges against the respondent. It is the State’s case and they have the ultimate decision around whether or not to press charges or offer a plea deal.
  • Jurisdiction matters. You need to file where the crime took place. If you go to the wrong location, the police will tell you they cannot take the report and send you someplace else. (If you are not sure where to report call SAFE, we can help you figure that out)
  • Although your experience could be factually true, the evidence may not meet the high burden of proof to obtain a criminal conviction.

Reporting sexual violence to the University or the police is not the right option for all survivors. Some survivors prefer to focus on healing. Healing can take many forms and looks different for every survivor. The SAFE Place can help survivors go through their options and help get them connected to resources both on and off campus. For more information visit, The Safe Place. There are lots of different ways survivors can begin to heal from sexual violence. Some of the most common areas are listed below.

Medical Care

After incidents of sexual violence survivors may need benefit from medical care to treat injuries and prevent complicating health issues. The medical care needed varies depending on each survivor’s unique experience. However, there are some common things to keep in mind. Pregnancy testing (even if you are on birth control) and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) can be helpful to a survivor's overall health and wellbeing. Additionally, preventive medication can be given within the first few days to prevent pregnancy and STI prevention.

Medical providers are confidential in the sense that they will keep your health information private. However, they are required to report injuries or health complications related to crimes (including sexual assault and intimate partner violence). Medical providers can make anonymous reports to the police, but they will make the report. If you would like to receive the proper preventive care for STIs and pregnancy without disclosing, you can just say that you need to follow up after having “rough unprotected sex” and you will get the similar treatment as saying that you were sexually assaulted.

Survivors can access medical STI testing, pregnancy prevention, and limited preventive medication on campus through Student Health Services (SHS). Please note SHS does not do SAFE exams. Students can also access medical care through their health insurance.

Individual therapy is a collaborative process based on the relationship between an individual and a therapist. The therapist provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who is objective, neutral and nonjudgmental to work through challenging situations and past experiences.

Survivors can receive short-term support (free of charge) on campus through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). Typically, CAPS see students for a limited number of sessions per academic year. If a survivor needs additional support, they will help get them connected to off campus resources.

The Peggy H. Smith Counseling Clinic offers free therapy to SFSU students. The Psychology Clinic provides long-term low-fee individual counseling. Both of these resources provide weekly therapy from September through May in accordance with the academic calendar.

Students can also access supports off campus through their health insurance or local community clinics. For help accessing community resources reach out to the SAFE Place or one of the CAPS Case Managers

Group Therapy: Group therapy is an opportunity for survivors to heal in community with others. There are many types of support groups including support groups, skills groups, and process-oriented groups.

There are support groups offered on campus through Counseling and Psychological Services. Please see the websites for specifics of each group, including how to sign up.

Additionally, there are several community agencies that offer groups to survivors. SAFE Place or one of the CAPS Case Managers can help survivors connect to these off-campus resources.

Crisis support focuses on help survivors cope with the immediate aftermath of sexual violence. The goal is to focus on immediate needs of the survivor to ensure they are safe and stable. This includes short term crisis counseling and safety planning.

Survivors can access confidential crisis support through the SAFE Place and Counseling and Psychological Services on campus. After hours support is offered through our community partner, SFWAR. Additionally Equity Programs and Compliance (EP&C) can help survivors with supportive measures to ensure their safety including campus no contact order, housing changes and class changes, however the staff of EP&C are not confidential.

Crisis support is also available off-campus through our community partners. Many agencies offer 24-hour crisis hotlines that offer support to survivors of sexual violence. View our resource list.

Many survivors are not sure what they want to do. The good news is that decisions do not need to be made alone or quickly. Survivors can consult with an advocate who can review their options with them. SAFE is available to students, staff and faculty during regular business hours to provide confidential support. However, we recognize that survivors may need support outside of our business hours or outside the University system. Under these circumstances, survivors can access support from one of our community partners listed on our resource page.

In order to make the most of your options, please consider taking steps to preserve evidence that could be used in a criminal case or a Title IX investigation. There are many things could be helpful in a police investigation or Title IX investigation. The list below are a few things to keep in mind but should not be considers a complete or exhaustive list.

  • Save clothing and/or linens that might have body fluids (blood, saliva, semen or vaginal fluid) in paper bags (plastic will deteriorate DNA). Place one item in each bag to avoid cross contamination.
  • Keep all communication with the respondent. It can be triggering to see the communication so you can take a screen shot of e-mails, text messages, call logs, or social media posts and upload it to a google drive to which the respondent does not have access.
  • Take pictures of any injuries, including bruises, cuts, scraps or broken bones. Remember that injuries (especially bruising) develop later and change over time. Consider taking photos of each stage of the injury. Seeing these photos can be triggering or it can be dangerous to keep them on your phone/computer if the respondent has access to your phone/computer. Upload the photos to a cloud drive to which the respondent does not have access then delete them from your phone/computer.
  • Try to write down as many details as possible about the incident as soon as possible. Include the location and the names and contact information for anyone who might have seen anything. For stalking, harassment and IPV consider keeping a log of all incidents including the date time and location of the incident.

Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) also called a TRC Exam SART exam or SANE exam is a physical exam that collects evidence for law enforcement while also providing medical care to the survivor. Survivors do not need to make a police report when seeking the exam, but as mandated reporters the medical provide does have to report the incident. However, as a survivor, you do not have to speak with the police and the report can be made anonymously. Exams are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital Emergency Room. This is the only location in San Francisco where you can get the exam. For anyone seeking an exam with the understanding that assaults that happen outside of San Francisco will always be reported to the appropriate jurisdiction.

The overall purpose for the exam which, is similar to a general OB/GYN exam, is to make sure the survivor is not injured and to gather evidence from the survivor’s body. While it is always best to do the exam as soon as possible, the examiner can find evidence up to 5 days after the incident, even if you have taken a shower. All survivors have a right to have the examination explained prior to giving consent. Also, you have the right to refuse any part of the examination. Often, the exam will include the option for preventive medication for pregnancy and/or sexual transmitted infections. There is never a charge for the exam. All survivors have the right to have an advocate present during the entire exam and hospital visit. When you arrive at the hospital, the examiner will call an advocate from either SFWAR or RTC on your behalf.