Published: April 14, 2023

This past September, Provost Russ Moore and Chief Operating Officer Patrick O'Rourke charged the Sexual Misconduct Task Force with reviewing the sexual misconduct survey results and recommending how the campus can develop an integrated and comprehensive approach to sexual misconduct prevention.

The primary focus of the task force has been to identify academic and social strategies that reduce the risk for and impact of sexual assault. This work focuses on enhancing students' sense of social support, community connection and mutual accountability in the classroom, university housing, and social spaces on and off campus.

The task force started meeting in October and plans to present a proposal by late summer that includes initiatives to implement in the next year, and in three to five years. As the task force’s work develops, it will continue to share the progress in focusing on, preventing and responding to the critical issue of sexual misconduct.

How to offer support to others

The 2021 Sexual Misconduct Survey revealed the important role that friends have in supporting students who experience sexual assault. Survey results showed a substantial increase in the number of students who indicated they talked to someone about being sexually assaulted. Additionally, undergraduate women who told a friend or roommate about the sexual assault were significantly more likely to agree they had a sense of community, felt valued and were treated like they belonged at CU Boulder; they were also significantly less likely to have considered leaving CU Boulder.

Students need someone to talk to when bad things happen, and how that person responds matters. If the response is negative, it may shut someone down or increase the impact of a traumatic event. If positive, it can help a person feel hopeful and seek further support.

Below are important actions we can take to support someone who discloses a traumatic or disruptive life event:

  • Check on their safety and help them address any immediate safety concerns.
  • Keep calm and avoid having your own judgment or emotional response interfere. Your job isn’t to “fix” the person, make them feel better or take their pain away. The best thing to do is simply listen well.
  • Normalize and validate their feelings. This doesn’t mean normalizing the bad thing that happened but rather affirming their response and feelings are understandable. People respond to traumatic events differently, and however someone is feeling or acting (e.g., laughing, crying, no emotion, etc.) is normal.
  • Follow their lead and let them decide what they need. Don’t tell the person what to do or how to feel; simply help them explore options and choices for additional support or next steps.

Visit the Don’t Ignore It website to learn more about offering support to trauma survivors or those exhibiting concerning behavior.

Seeking support

Whether you are a student or employee, there are resources available to address sexual misconduct and support those who are impacted.

Office of Victim Assistance

The CU Boulder Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) is a free and confidential place for campus community members to receive trauma-focused counseling and advocacy services. OVA provides support in the aftermath of a traumatic experience, including sexual assault, abuse in a relationship, stalking, harassment, other forms of physical assault, mass violence, natural disasters and more.

If someone chooses to pursue reporting processes, medical services or other types of support, OVA can help them through the processes and inform them of their rights and options. People do not have to engage with other services or reporting processes to utilize OVA’s confidential support.

Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance

Victims or survivors of sexual assault can report to the CU Boulder Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance (OIEC). Individuals reporting determine what action, if any, they would like to take. OIEC will conduct an initial inquiry and provide information on all university resolution options, including the right to participate in a formal investigation process under the university’s sexual misconduct, intimate partner violence, and stalking policy.

OIEC provides immediate and long-term support and safety measures, such as changes to academics, living, transportation and working situations to minimize disruptions and help keep individuals and the campus community safe.

Privacy laws safeguard these reports, and the university cannot discuss individual cases.

Police and other community resources

Sexual assault and other forms of abuse and violence can also be reported to the CU Boulder Police Department at any time or to other police departments off campus. A university process through OIEC and the criminal process are separate, and people can choose to report to either, both or neither.

There are additional community support resources to be aware of to help ensure people know the range of options available.

Looking ahead

Throughout April, CU Boulder recognizes Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). This year's SAAM events are a collaboration of student groups, campus offices and off-campus organizations. Stay up to date on events to come through the SAAM webpage.