Compelled Disclosure -- The Problem with "Required Reporting" of Sexual Violence on College Campuses

A Compilation of Articles and Resources

Compiled by Jennifer J Freyd

Note: I have an opinion on this issue -- I'm opposed to compelled disclosure (sometimes called required reporting; reporting without the consent of the adult survivor) on ethical grounds: it is a form of compelled betrayal. Betrayal causes harm. There is no evidence of which I am aware that compelled disclosure is effective and indication it is not safe. Compelled disclosure is a violation of basic human rights to privacy and autonomy; removing autonomy is particularly harmful to survivors (as we know from social science research); and requiring compelled disclosure is fundamentally counter to academic freedom, learning, and equal access to education (and is thus a civil rights violation). I'm also opposed on practical grounds: compelled disclosure will chill reporting on campus and, in the meantime, there are good approaches available to encouraging voluntary -- and institutionally accountable -- reporting. (Accountability is very important: currently we may have a kind of Reporting Theatre in which policies compel reporting but then many reports are actually buried.) We can and we must have liberation on all fronts: liberation from sexual violence and liberation from attempts to crush academic freedom or deny survivors autonomy.

new: 14 June 2017 Update:

This new article was accepted on June 9 for publication in American Psychologist:

Holland, K.J, Cortina, L.M., & Freyd, J.J. (accepted for publication) Compelled Disclosure of College Sexual Assault. American Psychologist. Accepted version full text

Abstract (Not yet copyedited)
Sexual assault is a widespread problem on college campuses. In response, many institutions are developing policies mandating that certain employees report any student disclosure of sexual assault to university officials (and, in some cases, to police), with or without the survivor’s consent. These policies, conceptualized here as compelled disclosure, have been prompted and shaped by federal law and guidance, including Title IX and The Clery Act. Proponents of compelled disclosure assert that it will increase reports—enabling universities to investigate and remedy more cases of sexual assault—and will benefit sexual assault survivors, university employees, and the institution. However, many questions remain unanswered. How broad (or narrowly tailored) are contemporary compelled disclosure mandates in higher education? Do any empirical data support assumptions about the benefits of these policies? Are there alternative approaches that should be considered, to provide rapid and appropriate responses to sexual violence while minimizing harm to students? The current article begins with an overview of federal law and guidance around compelled disclosure. Next, a content analysis of a stratified random sample of 150 university policies provides evidence that the great majority require most, if not all, employees to report student sexual assault disclosures. A review of the literature then suggests that these policies have been implemented despite limited evidence to support assumptions regarding their benefits and effectiveness. In fact, some findings suggest negative consequences for survivors, employees, and institutions. The article concludes with a call for survivor-centered reforms in institutional policies and practices surounding sexual assault.

new: 23 May 2017 Update: On 12 April 2017 there was again unanimous support by the University of Oregon Senate for our new proposed reporting policy that does NOT make most employees mandatory reporters but instead obligates them to provide information, support the students and follow the wishes of the survivor/student. (Here is more about the task force that proposed the policy.) On 23 May, the university president signed this policy effective 15 September 2017. We also hope this policy can serve as a model for other campuses and organizations -- one in which we shift the focus from required reporting to required supporting.

News Articles

National News

UO Campus Specific News

 

Video: Student-Directed Sexual Violence Reporting Policy Approved, 12 April 2017, University of Oregon Senate (16 mins) (also see Video of University of Oregon Senate, 18 May 2016 when mandatory reporting was rejected.)

 

Statements from Organizations Opposing Wide-Brush Mandatory Reporting Requirements

National & International Organizations

Campus Specific Organizations

Statements Supporting Wide-Brush Mandatory Reporting Requirements

Faculty Commentary

student-directed

Section from commentary by Freyd, 2016

Student and Survivor Voices

Scholarly and Scientific Research

Some Universities with Policies that do NOT Require all Faculty to be Required Reporters

  1. University of Michigan
  2. NYU
  3. Cal Tech
  4. CUNY
  5. Hofstra
  6. University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
  7. George Washington University
  8. University of Miami
  9. University of South Carolina
  10. Catholic University
  11. University of Nebraska
  12. Brown University
  13. Vanderbilt University
  14. University of Oregon effective 15 September 2017

(More details about specific policies here.)

See Also