Preventing Sexual Assault
Mississippi State University is committed to creating and maintaining a community in which students, faculty, and staff can work together in an atmosphere free of the threat of sexual assault. Every member of the university community should be aware that the University considers personal physical safety of students and employees to be a minimal prerequisite for the establishment of a learning environment.
Mississippi State views any form of sexual assault (as defined in this brochure) as a serious offense, and such behavior is prohibited by state law and by university policy. It is the intention of the University to take whatever action is needed to prevent, correct, and if necessary, discipline behavior that violates this policy. Prosecution of students for crimes they commit, whether by state or federal prosecutors, is independent of and in addition to the charges or disciplinary proceedings instituted by the University. This brochure summarizes the University policy and procedures on sexual assault. A copy of the complete policy may be obtained at http://www.msstate.edu/dept/audit/91118.html or you can call the Dean of Students Office at 325-3611 for further information.
What constitutes sexual assault?
Mississippi State University defines sexual assault (including but not limited to rape) as any kind of sexual physical contact that involves force or any form of coercion or intimidation. Also prohibited is contact with a person who is unable to consent.
Sexual physical contact includes the intentional touching of another person on the area of the body generally recognized as a private part of the body, or touching any part of another person's body with a private part of one's own body. An unwarranted touch may be considered sexual physical contact no matter how slight it is.
A person who is unable to consent includes, but is not limited to, any unmarried person under age 17, anyone who is physically helpless, or anyone who is mentally incapacitated. A physically helpless person is considered to be one who is unconscious or for any other reason unable to communicate unwillingness to engage in any act. A mentally incapacitated person may be one who is under the influence of alcohol or a drug, or who is mentally incapable of understanding the implications and consequences of any act.
Reporting sexual assault and receiving assistance
A Sexual Assault Response Team has been designated by the Division of Student Affairs to handle sexual assault cases. The team includes a coordinator and designated individuals from the University Police Department, the Longest Student Health Center, and the Counseling Center. For information or to report a sexual assault case, anyone, including students and any member of the university community, may contact the Sexual Assault Team Coordinator at 325-2091 or 325-9101. Any member of the team may be contacted by calling the appropriate department and asking for the person designated to the Sexual Assault Response Team. A list of telephone numbers and offices and departments is included in the publication.
The Sexual Assault Response Team is available to help anyone who reports a violation of the sexual assault policy. The Sexual Assault Response Team can provide crisis intervention, assessment, direct support, and referral for the victim and the accused. The Sexual Assault Response Team also is responsible for coordinating prevention education efforts on campus.
Any university employee receiving a report of sexual assault should refer the matter to the coordinator of the Sexual Assault Response Team. In the absence of the coordinator, referral to any team member is appropriate. The coordinator will discuss options and resources with the person reporting the sexual assault. A student may choose to use the University judicial process in cases involving another student, whether the incident occurred on- or off-campus.
Procedures for reporting a sexual offense
- Go to a safe place as soon as possible.
- Try to preserve all physical evidence. If you are reporting a sexual assault that has occured within the previous 72 hours, it may be possible to collect trace evidence of the offense. This evidence is important particularly if you wish to prosecute the offender. Do not shower or bathe, wash your hands, use the toilet, change clothing, or wash your clothing or bedding. If you changed clothes, please place all of the clothing that was worn at the time of the incident in a paper (not plastic) bag.
- Seek medical attention. A medical examination will provide any necessary treatment and collect important evidence. MSU police are available to transport sexual assault victims to the Longest Student Health Center or the Oktibbeha County Hospital where a rape examination may be conducted.
- Call the MSU Police Department. To report an incident that has just occured, or to report an incident at a later date, call the MSU Police Department at 325-2121. Victims are encouraged to bring a friend for support.
Reporting an incident is a separate step from choosing to prosecute. We are concerned with the victim's welfare and want to ensure that the appropriate treatment and support is provided. When a person files a report with the University Police Department, they are not obligated to continue with legal proceedings or university disciplinary action.
Reporting an incident to the MSU Police Department helps:
- Identify and apprehend the alleged assailant;
- Maintain future options regarding criminal prosecution, University disciplinary action, and/or civil action against the perpetrator; and
- Protects the victim and others from future assaults by the same assailant.
When an incident is reported, an MSU police officer will complete an incident report. An investigator will be summoned to begin an investigation into the offense. This process is important if the victim wishes to bring criminal charges at this or a later time. The victim will be asked questions about the incident and asked to identify any witnesses and what happened before and after the incident. Generally, the MSU Police Department works to safeguard the identity of the victim.
It is the victim's decision whether to involve the police in an incident. Deciding not to involve the police does not prevent the victim from seeking assistance from other members of the Sexual Assault Response Team.
- Seek counseling or other support. A victim who wishes to speak to someone confidentially is encouraged to contact Dr. Beatrice Tatem, Coordinator of the Sexual Assault Response Team. Dr. Tatem will be responsible for coordinating treatment and additional services.
In responding to reports of sexual assault, the University seeks to provide redress for the victim, to provide due process for the accused, and to protect the campus community from the threat of such incidents.
A charge of sexual assault against a university student will be handled by the Office of the Dean of Students under the normal University judicial processes. The Dean of Students has the discretion to suspend a student accused of sexual assault, pending a hearing. Upon completion of any necessary investigation, the Dean of Students will formally notify the accused student of the charge and set a hearing date within five class days.
Both the person filing a complaint and the person accused of a violation of the policy on sexual assault have certain rights in the University judicial process.
The person filing a complaint has the right to be present whenever the accused student is present in the judicial process; has the right to be accompanied by the Sexual Assault Response Team Coordinator; has the right to be present when a finding of guilt or innocence is announced to the accused; has the right to make a formal statement, orally or in writing, prior to consideration of any penalty to be imposed on the offender; has the right to be notified, at the same time as the offender, of any penalty being imposed; has the right to be notified of any appeals filed by the offender, and to respond to any new evidence presented as the basis for any appeal; and has the right to be notified, at the same time as the accused, of the result of any appeals.
The person accused of sexual assault under University policy has all rights of due process accorded by the University judicial process. These rights are specifically listed in the Code of Student Conduct.
The sanctions for students found guilty of sexual assault under this policy range from a minimum of suspension for one year to a maximum of permanent expulsion. Any student suspended under this policy must, as a condition of reentering the University, submit to the Dean of Students proof of successful completion of counseling by a licensed mental health professional and the results of a psychological evaluation.