06:27pm Tuesday 18 February 2020

Guidelines for reporting of child abuse, sexual assault

The fight against child abuse cannot be the job of one individual or one agency; it has to be a collaborative effort. It is important for every member of our University community to clearly understand the imperative and expectations, legal and moral, to report incidents or suspicions of child abuse and sexual assault as soon as possible, whether they are directly observed or reported to them by others. Below are guidelines to help faculty, staff and students in reporting abuse.

For incidents of child abuse:

Pennsylvania law mandates child abuse reporting requirements for all employees at a public university such as Penn State. Though the law requires incidents to be reported to the person “in charge of the situation,” all employees are expected to report incidents of child abuse or suspicions of abuse as soon as possible to all of the following:

— University Police (911, or 111 from a campus phone at University Park) or local police (911);
— The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Child Line at 800-932-0313 (this hotline is staffed at all times); and
— Their supervisor.

There are four categories of child abuse covered under the law:

— A non-accidental, serious physical injury to a child younger than 18 years;
— Mental injury, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child younger than 18 years;
— An act that creates imminent risk of serious physical injury to, or sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of, a child younger than 18 years;
— Neglect that endangers a child’s life or development.

For incidents of rape and sexual assault against college-age students or other adults:

Employees should take the following steps if a victim of rape or sexual assault contacts them:

— Assist the victim with getting to a safe place as soon as possible (on the University Park campus, health care for victims can be provided through Mount Nittany Medical Center and/or University Health Services).

— Encourage the victim to preserve all physical evidence. Offer to contact the police on the victim’s behalf. The victim should not bathe, shower, douche (for female victims), use the toilet, or change clothing until a medical exam has been conducted.

— Encourage and help the victim to contact the police or offer to contact the police on the victim’s behalf. The emergency telephone number 911 is used in the local community. For University Police dial 111 from an on campus phone at University Park. Also, any blue light emergency telephone will connect a caller directly with University Police. Rape and sexual assault are crimes and it is important to report them. However, reporting a crime is not the same as prosecuting. The decision to prosecute can be made by a victim at a later time. Reporting the incident to University Police also will permit a timely warning to be issued to the campus or local community.

— Employees should notify their supervisor about the incident. Because victims often share with someone they trust, any staff member, regardless of training or comfort level, can be the first person with whom a victim talks. It is important for employees to let their supervisor know that they have received information about a sexual assault or rape, so the employee can receive support, so the victim can be provided with whatever resources the victim might need, and so Penn State can ensure that campus safety matters have been addressed. Employees do not need to divulge the victim’s identity when reporting to a supervisor.

— Offer to assist the victim to get medical attention as soon as possible. An exam will determine the presence of physical injury, sexually transmissible diseases, or pregnancy (for female victims); it is important for the victim’s well-being. The exam, if done within 72 hours following the rape or sexual assault, can obtain evidence to assist in criminal prosecution. If a female victim is worried about pregnancy, emergency contraception pills (available through University Health Services) can be administered within 72 hours of the sexual assault to help prevent pregnancy.

— Contact a close friend of the victim who can be with the victim for support. The friend can accompany the victim to the medical exam and/or police department. 

— Encourage the victim to meet with a counselor. The victim may be feeling a variety of strong emotions, including fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, powerlessness, shame, shock, disbelief, embarrassment, denial and anger. The victim also may have some physical problems, such as sleep disturbances and nausea. Therefore, seeing a counselor may be important in helping the victim to understand personal feelings and begin the process of recovery.

— For more detailed information, refer to the “Student Affairs Protocol to Assist Victims of Relationship, Domestic and Sexual Violence, at http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/womenscenter/pdf/protocol.pdf.

Pennsylvania law categorizes crimes of rape and sexual assault in the following ways:

Rape is defined as sexual intercourse obtained:
— through “forcible compulsion or threat of forcible compulsion;”
— when a person is unconscious or unaware that intercourse is occurring even though conscious;
— when a mental disability renders a person incapable of consent;
— when a person is less than 13 years of age even though consent is given; or
— when the offender gets a victim drunk or high for the purpose of preventing resistance without the knowledge of the victim.

Sexual assault consists of nonconsensual sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse includes vaginal, anal or oral sex. There must be some penetration, however slight, but ejaculation is not necessary.

Aggravated indecent assault consists of penetration of the genitals or anus by a part of the offender’s body without consent.

Indecent assault is defined as unwanted touching of intimate parts of the body.

The Pennsylvania State University

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