Survivor's Bill of Rights

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Survivor’s Bill of Rights (SBOR)

Originally Drafted By:
Coalition to End Rape Culture
Carry That Weight
Know Your IX
United States Student Association

Spring 2021 Version Updated and Supported by:
Student Government Association Officials
The Every Voice Coalition
It’s On Us at UMass
The Pride Alliance at UMass
Students for Reproductive Justice at UMass
Period at UMass

Table of Contents:

  1. Survivor’s Bill of Rights: Introduction
  2. Reporting Options for Survivors
  3. Rights of Survivors
  4. The Reporting and Conduct Process
  5. Campus-Wide Accountability
  6. Accessibility and Visibility
  7. Future Amendments

The Survivor’s Bill of Rights: Introduction

The Survivor’s Bill of Rights is a comprehensive set of principles and practices that recognize and expand the rights and resources for survivors of gender-based violence. This document elaborates upon the tangible, indisputable rights of survivors that are recognized and enforced by the university. Developed through the collective work of past and present activist organizations, the Bill has continuously evolved to address the campus climate and support the needs of survivors. The bill originated in 2015 and was researched and developed by a student organization known as the Coalition to End Rape Culture (CERC). After years of revision, an expanded version of the document was revived through a group of students in the Spring of 2021, passing it through a student referenda question where over 92% of students voted in support of adoption. 

Understanding the long-standing history and culture of gender-based violence within University circles and the ways in which it is perpetuated through rape culture, the Survivor’s Bill of Rights is a revolutionary document that promotes a safer and more just campus environment. Through the collaborative and supportive measures from University administration alongside student leadership, this Bill was formally passed and fully implemented in the Fall of 2021. Students provided indispensable insight, ideas, and effort to this initiative and we are incredibly grateful for their time and advocacy. This work especially could not have been done without their invaluable contributions.

Though work must continue to be done to ensure the safety of Survivors and the prevention of any and all acts of gender-based violence, it is the intention of this document to establish a sense of security and a culture of accountability at the University of Massachusetts. The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to providing options, support, and assistance to survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and/or stalking to ensure that they can continue their education and to participate in campus programs, activities, and employment. All survivors of these crimes and violations, regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, creed, age, disability, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, familial status, pregnancy, citizenship, mental health status, military status, domestic violence survivor status, or criminal conviction, have the following rights, regardless of whether the crime or violation occurs on campus, off campus, while studying on domestic exchange or abroad, or in online spaces. 
The information, policies and procedures under the Survivor Bill of Rights and MA CODE CH.337 will be sent to students annually and no later than August 20th as required under MA Code CH.337 § 168E (e). 

Reporting Options for Survivors

Survivors have many options that can be pursued simultaneously, including one or more of the following. Survivors may; 

1.    Receive resources, such as access to University Health Services, The Center for Women & Community, counseling, medical attention, legal services, and academic or other accommodations at no cost and without having to file a formal complaint with the college.

2.    Confidentially or anonymously as required under MA Code CH.337 § 168E (i), disclose a crime or violation, which would be included in UMass Amherst’s Clery Act reporting data. 

3.    Confidential Resource Provider as established in MA Code CH.337 § 168E (l) who can support the student through the process of accessing school-based accommodations and to clarify a survivor’s rights and options. 

4.    Make a report to one or more of the following; 

  1. An employee with the authority to address complaints including the Title IX Coordinator, the Dean of Students Office, or a Human Resources Employee;
  2. On-Campus Police and/or Local law enforcement and establishing a Memorandum of Understanding with UMPD and local law enforcement as required under MA Code CH.337 § 168E (c,e).

Rights of Survivors

The University of Massachusetts, Amherst will establish a policy concurrent with MA Code CH.337 § 168E to ensure that every survivor has the right to:

1.    Have reported cases investigated by impartial, trauma-informed individuals with professional expertise with rape, sexual assault and gender-based violence, to ensure the most effective, professional, and trauma-informed investigation process for all participants.

2.    Make use of transparent, prompt, and fair adjudication processes. 

3.    Be free from any victim blaming and suggestions by University representatives that the survivor is at fault when allegations were reported, or that the survivor should have acted in a different manner to avoid the incident.  

4.    Describe the incident to as few individuals as practicable and not be required to unnecessarily repeat a description of the incident. 

5.    Be free from any retaliation by the University, the accused, and/or their friends, family and acquaintances. 

6.    Exercise civil rights and practice of religion without interference by the investigative, criminal justice, or conduct process of the University. 

7.    Make use of an accessible and enforceable procedure for holding University officials accountable if these rights should be violated. 

8.    Be guaranteed complete amnesty for the use of alcohol or illegal substances when disclosed in good faith during the adjudication process. 

9.    Have cases of sexual and dating violence treated with appropriately severe sanctions, in combination with education programming. 

10.    Have cases of sexual and domestic violence adjudicated using a preponderance of evidence standard. 

11.    Be able to discuss and publicize the outcome of their complaint without any limitation from college officials. 

12.    Be informed of the outcome of their complaint in writing in a timely manner.

13.    Survivors have a right to know that all Faculty in administrative and leadership positions, including Deans, Associate Deans, Chairs/Heads, Graduate and Undergraduate Program directors are mandated reporters and are required to report sexual misconduct to the Title IX coordinator.

14.    Students have a right to be informed about available campus resources and reporting options, and if the student wants to make a report, the student has a right to assistance from the faculty member in reporting information to a responsible employee or to the Title IX Coordinator, or report for the student as requested.

15.    Be guaranteed a fair, efficient, and expeditious investigation, endeavoring to conclude within 120 days, unless the underlying complexity of the allegations require additional time or extensions and involve numerous witnesses. If additional time or extensions are required and for good cause, the survivor shall receive a written explanations/updates throughout the process.

16.    Have access to 24/7 rape crisis services on or near campus. 

17.    Have access to school-based accommodations without needing to file a formal complaint, during and after the adjudication process, and after the resolution of their complaint if the respondent(s) are found not responsible. 

18.    Be guaranteed expedient and exhaustive support by the Title IX Coordinator and other appropriate offices in eliminating if possible or otherwise mitigating costs associated with necessary school based supportive measures, knowing that the survivor's financial situation will be viewed holistically.

19.    Be free from any questions about irrelevant sexual history and the inclusion of irrelevant evidence during the adjudication process.

20.    The survivor shall have a right to an advisor to conduct cross-examination during the hearing and shall have the ability to request questions be stricken by the panel/strike questions from the other party.

21.    Be able to appeal the outcome of their complaint. 

22.    Be guaranteed expedient and exhaustive support by the Title IX Coordinator and other appropriate offices in eliminating if possible or otherwise mitigating financial costs, including tuition and fees, associated with the Title IX complaint process.  

23.    Be guaranteed expedient and exhaustive support by the Title IX Coordinator and other appropriate offices in eliminating if possible or otherwise mitigating fees associated with the reporting and adjudication process.   

24.    Be guaranteed advice on which option ("W" or "I") is best for their respective situation since every situation requires an individualized and personal assessment. 

25.    Be referred to in all campus proceedings by their name and gender identity pronouns.

26.    Be free from racial or/and gender profiling by the college administration or police force. 

27.    If a survivor has pregnancy concerns due to an assault, the Center for Women and Community will provide information about rights and resources. This includes information about the Massachusetts Crime Victims Fund established by the Victims of Crime Act.

28.    Be free from any pressure to terminate or to not terminate a pregnancy caused by sexual assault and rape. 

29.    The reporting and judicial process, and medical care following a sexual assault or rape.

30.    Resources that specifically address the needs of individual survivors, on the basis of disability, socioeconomic status, mental health, race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. 

31.    Elect to choose their advocates and any other resources they may need to feel comfortable, safe, and accurately represented. 

32.    Transgender and gender nonconforming students deserve and have the right to informed, non-judgmental medical care in the reporting and adjudication process. 

33.    Be guaranteed the right to remove their information from the search engine, People Finder, in order to protect their information and security.

34.    Be able to withdraw a complaint or involvement from the adjudication process at any time.

35.    Have the opportunity to review all available evidence in the case file.

36.    Be able to provide testimony during the hearing via alternative options including by telephone, videoconferencing, and closed-circuit cameras.

37.    Be able to ask questions of the hearing panelist, indirectly request responses from other parties and any other witnesses present via the hearing panelist, and when possible be free from direct cross-examination by the accused student or their advisor. 

38.    Not be required to be present for or hear their assailant’s testimonies during the adjudication process. 

39.    Shall have the right to make an impact statement before the hearing panel deliberates on the appropriate sanctions.

40.    Be able to access Rape Kits at University Health Services and ensure that UHS is sufficiently funded to provide trauma-informed care. 

The Reporting & Conduct Process

To ensure that adjudication processes are fair, transparent, and prompt, the college or university will; 

1.    Institute a complete amnesty policy as required under MA Code CH.337 § 168E (k) for the use of alcohol or illegal substances or breaking another section of the Code of Conduct near the time of the incident for any survivor or bystander who discloses that use in good faith to college officials or police officers during a complaint or investigation. Students should not have to fear reporting gender-based violence due to the threat of being subject to campus conduct action for violations of alcohol and drug use policies.

2.    Adopt an affirmative consent standard that defines consent as an affirmative, conscious, enthusiastic, continuous, revocable, sober, informed, specific freely-given, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.

3.    Update and/or revise comprehensive definitions of affirmative consent, rape, sexual assault, harassment, stalking, intimate partner violence and domestic violence.

4.    Be guaranteed the consideration of all formal reports of violence or gender-based misconduct made against an accused student, including witness testimony regarding the accused student engaging in violence or gender-based misconduct that has not resulted in a formal report, as admissible evidence of a potential pattern of behavior during the adjudication process. This must also include evidence of violence or gender-based misconduct that has not resulted in a formal report of any kind.

5.    Comply with the Clery Act by sending out timely alerts regarding reported incidents or attempts of gender-based violence between or against students and require similar reports for incidents or attempts that occur off-campus. As required under this law, reported incidents include reports made to responsible school employees, including but not limited to, residential advisors, student life representatives, and professors.

6.    Issue no contact orders that prohibit contact between the survivor and the accused effective immediately when a formal complaint is filed and inform the survivor that this is an available accommodation, without filing a complaint. 

7.    Simultaneously notify both parties in writing or by electronic notice about any meetings or hearings they are required to attend and notify them in writing as to the outcome of the complaint.

8.    The Title IX process will run concurrently with the criminal investigation process, other than a pause when the police are doing their initial investigation, or upon the request of external agencies.
9.    Permit the survivor(s) of the same perpetrator to testify in another survivor's disciplinary hearing, if the investigation determines that survivors have relevant information. 

Campus-Wide Accountability

The university administration is accountable for enforcing this Survivor’s Bill of Rights, maintaining Title IX and Clery Act compliance. 

To assess whether these rights and obligations are being met, the college or university will;

1.    Continue a partnership with the Center for Women and Community as a Memorandum of Understanding as required under MA Code CH.337 § 168E (h) to ensure free access to legal, medical, and counseling services as well as collaborate with the university to establish training and trauma-informed policies.

2.    Establish the Title IX Student Task Force comprised of a cross section of student voices, including representatives from the Student Government Association and the Graduate Student Senate. The task force will 1) oversee the ongoing evaluation, development, and implementation of policies, resources, procedures, programming, education and communication efforts relating to sexual misconduct; 2) serve as liaisons between students to share information about Title IX with the logistical support of the university; 3) help to identify ongoing and emerging issues and trends; and 4) raise awareness about ongoing efforts to reduce sexual misconduct on our campus. 

3.    Share their experiences about their interactions with the Office of Equal Opportunity and/or the Dean of Students via an electronic survey after the resolution of their sexual misconduct case.  This survey will gather feedback on the student’s experience with the reporting and adjudication processes as well as their experience in accessing necessary resources and school-related accommodations. The information from the survey should be reviewed, analyzed, and forwarded to the Vice Chancellors for Human Resources and Student Affairs as well as to the Student Government Association.

4.    Implement annual climate surveys, using the framework required under CH.337 § 168D (a-g), to specifically assess the prevalence of sexual and dating violence. The data gathered from these surveys must be publicly released in a timely manner, ideally within two months of the completion of the survey period. 

5.    Publish aggregate data on an annual basis regarding gender-based misconduct cases, specifically the percentage of respondents found responsible, sanctions for individuals found responsible for perpetuating rape, sexual assault, and gender-based violence, whether interim accommodations were granted to survivors, how long after filing the survivor received an accommodations meeting, and the duration of cases.

6.    Review campus policies every two years, as well as reviewing all procedures, programming, and resources for preventing and responding to gender-based violence. This process should involve a review of materials, policies, and procedures from peer institutions and new empirical findings. 

7.    Increased comprehensive trainings and education as required in MA Code CH.337 § 168E (m,o) on sexual and dating violence be conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst administration. These training will expand on the programs provided during New Student Orientation, First Year Seminars, and RA Training, emphasizing bystander intervention trainings, consent workshops, healthy relationships workshops, as well as how to support a survivor and how and where to seek support as a survivor.  They will include in-person, hybrid, and online/on demand opportunities. These trainings will be assessed bi-annually. Updates will be informed by best practices and an inclusive broad representation of UMASS Amherst student input, feedback, and vetting. 

8.    The Office of Equal Opportunity University of Massachusetts Amherst's official policies will be centralized on the Title IX website in a manner to allow for student input. On this website, any member of the university community can review policies, learn about supportive resources and reporting options.

Accessibility and Visibility of the SBOR

Copies of this Bill of Rights shall be: 

1.    Distributed annually to students, 

2.    Made available on the college websites, 

3.    Provided to students in pamphlet form during relevant trainings and programming, 

4.    Posted in each campus residence hall, dining hall, university health services, student union and campus center and shall include links and/or information to access all University policies in relation to sexual violence and the options for disclosing sexual and domestic violence, including doing so confidentially or anonymously.

Future Amendments

The bill shall be subject to future amendments as dictated by the needs of students and campus climate, as well as by any changes to State and Federal law. Amendments must be passed through the Student Government Association, and shall be preceded by conversations between University Administration, student leaders in survivor-centric work, and relevant organizations on campus. This bill may not be changed without the partnership of the Student Government Association and student activists. 
Specific areas where conversation and work needs to continue include methods of disseminating information to students and survivors (such as syllabi), exploring additional methods of supporting survivors in academic and financial challenges, and reviewing the potential for transcript notation.