Campus and community police.
Advocates shared that new mandated reporting requirements have increased the involvement in campus sexual assault cases of both on-campus and off-campus police officers, and their experiences with police officers were mixed. One advocate described an experience in which a police officer entered the room when they were meeting with a survivor “like they were the Terminator,” which the advocate felt had retraumatized the survivor and prevented them from providing sufficient support. In general, advocates experienced more negative experiences with community police, who were less likely to receive training specific to Title IX or trauma-informed responses, than with campus police. One advocate reflected, “The campus law enforcement people that I have worked with are light years ahead of the local ones in terms of understanding sexual violence.”
Smaller campuses that cannot afford to hire their own advocates often contract with community-based organizations for advocacy, and even larger campuses have been creating memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with community organizations to provide additional advocacy services (Brubaker & Mancini, 2017). While these arrangements were sometimes experienced positively by participants, others described conflicts in these relationships and shared that they were aware of perceptions among community-based advocates that campus-based advocates were not able to truly support survivors because they are employed by the university. Community advocates felt that campus advocates were beholden to the universities’ processes and goals, regulated by Title IX, and that their loyalty to their employer was stronger than their loyalty to survivors. For example, one advocate shared, “[Community providers] have been going around campus telling administrators that we’re a liability to the university, that they should be contracting out, that I’m not a real advocate because I’m not working under the rape crisis center.” Another shared an ongoing source of conflict that challenged her work: “Community advocates saying ‘oh you shouldn’t trust your campus advocates because at the end of the day the school pays them and they’re only loyal to the school’.”
Some participants shared that community advocates tend to think their training is better than that provided on campus in terms of commitment to the survivor, and one community agency even refused to train campus-based advocates because they viewed them as more beholden to the university than to the survivors. On the contrary, some advocates shared that community advocates and mental health counselors who meet with survivors typically lack sufficient understanding of Title IX policies and procedures to serve and support students.
The conflicts with community advocates represent an ongoing problem encountered by advocates and others doing anti-violence work from a social justice and feminist perspective who also must work within larger systems (Brubaker, 2019). For example, one advocate explained, “We put forth the best interest of the survivor even if it’s against the best interest of the university.” This tension was a constant source of stress for many advocates as one lamented, “It’s unfortunate as a profession we have to go to work everyday and decide if we are going to do what’s best for the student, or are we going to keep our jobs.” Advocates in Moylan’s (2017) study reported similar tensions and struggles, which Moylan described as “victim-insensitive decisions.”