By Caitlin Barbieri and Katie Bashista
Capital News Service
RICHMOND - The reporting process starts with someone coming forward, whether it be the survivor, a friend or a faculty member. This person is referred to as the complainant.
Laura Rugless, VCU's director of equity and access services, says her office responds to the report as quickly as possible - typically within a few days.
After the complainant details exactly what they recall happening, the investigators determine if there was a violation of campus policy and if they can move forward with the investigation. If the investigation can move forward, a written notice of investigation is issued to all parties involved.
The written notice of investigation is a detailed letter that lets the person being accused, the respondent, know exactly what they're being accused of.
"That's part of due process," Rugless said. "Universities have been found not to provide due process, and as a result, the outcome can't withstand judicial scrutiny. We really put a lot of emphasis on that stage of the process."
From there, investigators will collect social media screenshots, texts, emails, phone logs and video surveillance if available. Two interviews each are then conducted with both parties and any witnesses. A draft investigation report is written and given to both parties, and they have five business days to respond. Another investigation report is written based on those responses. Then the final investigation report is sent out.
If either party is not satisfied with the results, they can challenge it on certain grounds as specified in the policy.
Rugless said VCU's Title IX staff understands that not everyone wants to report an incident of sexual assault or rape in fear of what the process looks like, but they are here to help.
"Just take it a step at a time, and we'll walk people through it," Rugless said. "We want to make sure we balance the rights of both parties in this process, and we want to make sure we get it right based on the information we get."
VCU resources are available at all times to support students who have experienced sexual assault. Survivors can call:
- VCU Police at 804-828-1234 and request to be connected to the 24/7 on-call therapist at VCU Counseling Services.
- The Well at 804-828-9355 during business hours.
- VCU Title IX office at 804-828-1347.