Referring Cases of Relationship Violence, Sexual Assault, Sexual Harassment, and Stalking to Student Conduct
Incidents of relationship violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape, and stalking (referred to here collectively as sexual misconduct and/or harassment) are serious violations of American University's commitment to supporting all members of its community. These actions may be addressed through a disciplinary proceeding. This page details information that may be particularly relevant when reporting such incidents. Most of the information here applies to any report of a policy violation and exceptions to this are noted. General information on referring a case is available on the Referring a Case to Student Conduct page. Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services encourages reporting of such violations to our Conduct Code and our community. We are available to meet with individuals who are considering referring a case.
How do I refer a case?
For the general details of referring a case with Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services, please visit the "Referring a Case" page or call us (202-885-3328) to make an appointment to discuss the incident. We're available to go over the process individually and in person.
Who will find out I reported the case?
Those who are considering referring cases of sexual misconduct and/or harassment to our office should meet with us to discuss the incident. In cases of alleged sexual harassment (including sexual assault), we are required by Federal law to report this information to the Title IX Coordinator. If a disciplinary case proceeds, the person who is alleged to have committed the violations will be sent a copy of the entire report, including the name of the person who referred it. Depending on the manner in which the case is addressed, information may need to be shared with a hearing officer or a hearing panel for purposes of resolving the case. Hearing Officers and hearing panel members are required to maintain confidentiality.
We are required to report general information for purposes of aggregate statistics in the Campus Security Report. This information does not include specific names but requires the date, general location, and nature of the incident (if known). This information is published in aggregate form in the Annual Campus Security Report, available on Public Safety's website.
Can I submit evidence with my case?
Yes, you may submit photographs, emails, and other evidence, including medical forensic evidence from sexual assault exams. If evidence includes an illegal and/or dangerous item (i.e. drugs, weapon, etc), that should be turned over to AU Public Safety for appropriate storage. Photos can be submitted as attachments. You can also take a "screenshot" of any computer-based evidence. If you have questions about submitting evidence, please contact the Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services office.
Does the person who I make the complaint about have to know it came from me?
The Student Conduct Code guarantees that a respondent (student who allegedly violated policy) has a right "to hear and respond to evidence upon which a charge is based." The identity of the person filing the case is often important information for the charges. There are a variety of ways to reduce contact between the person who makes the complaint (complainant) and the person who allegedly violated policy (respondent). If Public Safety, Housing and Dining, or another university official responds to the incident, they may be able to file a complaint and serve as the complainant. Additionally, it may be appropriate to request an order of No Contact from the Dean of Students Office.
Do I have to talk to the respondent (person who allegedly violated policy)?
You are not required to speak directly to the respondent in the disciplinary process. When a sexual misconduct case is submitted to Student Conduct, it can be resolved one of two ways. If the case is resolved in a Disciplinary Conference (where suspension, expulsion, and removal from housing are not possible outcomes), the complainant is not present. If the case is resolved in a disciplinary hearing (where suspension, expulsion, and removal from housing are possible outcomes) then the complainant is required to be present; however, communication in a disciplinary hearing can be directed through the Hearing Administrator. The Student Conduct office can provide visual barriers in the hearing room. There are other options available if people do not want to be in the same room with each other. If this is of concern, please contact the Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services office.
If the case is resolved in a disciplinary hearing, do I have to see the respondent (person who allegedly violated policy?
The Student Conduct office can provide visual barriers in the hearing room. There are other options available if people do not want to be in the same room with each other. If this is of concern, please contact the Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services office.
If the case is resolved in a disciplinary hearing, can anyone else come with me for support or advice?
During the hearing, the complainant (person who filed the referral form) can bring one advisor. The advisor must be a current AU student, faculty, or staff member and cannot speak for the complainant or serve as legal counsel. Witnesses cannot bring anyone with them (unless there are disability or interpretation needs), but the person who asked them to appear will be in the room while they are presenting information.
What if I was in a relationship or previously consented to the alleged behaviors?
American University defines "consent" as "words or conduct indicating a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or to participate in sexual activities. Sexual contact will be considered 'without consent' if no clear consent, verbal or nonverbal, is given; if inflicted through force, threat of force, or coercion; or if inflicted upon a person who is unconscious or who otherwise reasonably appears to be without the mental or physical capacity to consent." Consent to sexual behavior on one occasion does not constitute future consent to sexual behavior. Therefore, even if you had previously consented to participate in sexual behavior in the past, the other party may still have violated policy if consent was not given again. Permission given once does not equate to permission for all future contact.
What will happen to me if I voluntarily used alcohol or another drug during the course of the incident?
Being under the influence of alcohol or other drugs does not constitute consent to participate in sexual activity. AU's definition of consent explicitly states that consent cannot be given if someone appears to be unable to give consent, which could include incapacitation due to alcohol/other drug use. For a variety of reasons, American University will not pursue cases against sexual misconduct victims who had used alcohol/other drugs at the time of their incident. This arises from two primary causes. One is that to pursue any case, we would need a case referral form within fifteen class days of the incident. Such cases could only be filed by those aware of the alleged violation. Additionally, while American University is concerned about any student's use of alcohol or other drugs illegally, our primary concern is with our students' health and safety. For that reason, addressing the allegations of sexual misconduct would be of primary concern. While we might suggest that a student who habitually uses alcohol or other drugs consider counseling resources to reduce this habit, we would not pursue Conduct charges in the case of sexual assault. If you believe that alcohol or other drugs were used to facilitate an incidence of sexual misconduct, we would encourage you to include that and any corroborating information in your referral form.
How long do I have to file the incident report?
A written complaint must be filed with the director of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services within 15 days (excluding weekends, official university holidays, winter and spring breaks) of the occurrence or discovery of the alleged infraction(s). The deadline for filing a case will be extended if there is an alleged violation of the university’s discrimination and discriminatory harassment policy, sexual discrimination and harassment policy, whistleblower policy, or a Conduct Code violation involving rape, sexual assault, or stalking. In such cases, the complainant will have one (1) year from the date of discovery to file a complaint as set forth in these policies.
Will Student Conduct keep me informed of the status of the case?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law governing the confidentiality of student records, including disciplinary records. It generally prohibits Student Conduct from releasing a student's disciplinary records to a third party, unless an exception occurs or the student signs a release. Therefore, we generally cannot inform the complainant (person filing the complaint) or witnesses about the status of the case.
There are some exceptions. If the case is resolved through a disciplinary hearing, the complainant will be informed of that resolution method (not necessarily the resolution itself) because they will be needed to participate. They can inform witnesses and others who will need to participate. Additionally, if the incident includes allegations of a violent crime or non-forcible sex offense as defined by the Jeanne Clery Act, then the victim will learn the outcome of the case. If, however, you have safety or other well-being concerns, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Can I help decide the outcome of the case?
If the case is referred to a disciplinary hearing and if the respondent (person who allegedly violated policy) is found responsible for any charges, the complainant will have an opportunity to recommend sanctioning. If you are serving as a witness, you may share your thoughts on sanctions with the complainant. If you believe there are specific outcomes that would benefit your health and safety, you should share those with our office as some (such as a no-contact order) can be facilitated separately from conduct proceedings.
Should I file a case with Student Conduct or through the court system?
This is a personal and complicated decision and should be considered in light of the specifics of a case. Cases may be referred to the courts and the University discipline system simultaneously. We are available to provide information on the AU student conduct process. We recommend that you consult an attorney to learn about the court process. There are many significant differences between the campus discipline system and the court system that could influence this decision. Some of the differences include: the standard of proof, the amount of time that it takes to resolve a case, how records are shared, and the roles of the participants.
What if the person who committed the violation is not an AU student?
AU's Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution Services' office can only process case referrals in which the respondent (person alleged to have violated policy) is an AU graduate or undergraduate student on main campus. If the alleged respondent is a student at the Washington College of Law, you should contact the Dean of Students at the Washington College of Law.
Our office can refer you to our colleagues at AU or at other universities who can discuss how different processes might apply to your case.