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Options for Confidentiality Disclosing Sexual Violence

The State University of New York and Upstate Medical University want you to get the information and support you need regardless of whether you would like to move forward with a report of sexual violence to campus officials or to police. You may want to talk with someone about something you observed or experienced, even if you are not sure that the behavior constitutes sexual violence. A conversation where questions can be answered is far superior to keeping something to yourself. Confidentiality varies, and this document is aimed at helping you understand how confidentiality applies to different resources that may be available to you.

In this Policy:

  • Privileged and Confidential Resources;
  • Non-Professional Counselors and Advocates;
  • Privacy versus Confidentiality;
  • Requesting Confidentiality: How the College/University Will Weigh the Request and Respond;
  • Public Awareness/Advocacy Events;
  • Anonymous Disclosure; and
  • Institutional Crime Reporting.

Privileged and Confidential Resources:

Individuals who are confidential resources will not report crimes to law enforcement or college officials without your permission, except for extreme circumstances, such as a health and/or safety emergency. At Upstate Medical University, this includes:

Off-campus options to disclose sexual violence confidentially include (note that these outside options do not provide any information to the campus):

  • Off-campus counselors and advocates. Crisis services offices will generally maintain confidentiality unless you request disclosure and sign a consent or waiver form. More information on an agency’s policies on confidentiality may be obtained directly from the agency.
    • Vera House, 6181 Thompson Rd., Suite 100; 422-7273 (hotline); verahouse.org
    • Upstate Emergency Department is a NYS Designated SAFE program and has SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) services.  Contact information:  Emergency Room (Downtown Campus), 750 East Adams Street; 883-5617; http://www.upstate.edu/emergency/healthcare/safe.php
  • Off-campus healthcare providers

Note that even individuals who can typically maintain confidentiality are subject to exceptions under the law, including when an individual is a threat to him or herself or others and the mandatory reporting of child abuse.

Non-Professional Counselors and Advocates:

Non-professional counselors and advocates can also assist without sharing information that could identify individuals.  At Upstate Medical University, this includes members of the Student Affairs staff (http://www.upstate.edu/currentstudents/support/index.php).  These individuals will report the nature, date, time, and general location of an incident to the Title IX Coordinator, but will consult with you to ensure no personally identifying details are shared without consent.  These individuals are not considered confidential resources as discussed above.

Privacy vs. Confidentiality:

Even Upstate Medical University offices and employees who cannot guarantee confidentiality will maintain privacy to the greatest extent possible. The information provided to a non-confidential resource will be relayed only as necessary to investigate and/or seek a resolution and to notify the Title IX Coordinator or designee, who is responsible under the law for tracking patterns and spotting systemic issues. Upstate Medical University will limit the disclosure as much as possible, even if the Title IX Coordinator determines that the request for confidentiality cannot be honored.

Requesting Confidentiality: How Upstate Medical University Will Weigh the Request and Respond:

If you disclose an incident to an Upstate Medical University employee who is responsible for responding to or reporting sexual violence or sexual harassment, but wish to maintain confidentiality or do not consent to the institution’s request to initiate an investigation, the Title IX Coordinator must weigh your request against our obligation to provide a safe, non-discriminatory environment for all members of our community, including you.  

We will assist you with academic, housing, transportation, employment, and other reasonable and available accommodations regardless of your reporting choices. While reporting individuals may request accommodations through several college offices, the following office can serve as a primary point of contact to assist with these measures:  Office of Student Affairs, 1225 Weiskotten Hall, 464-4816.  We also may take proactive steps, such as training or awareness efforts, to combat sexual violence in a general way that does not identify you or the situation you disclosed.

We may seek consent from you prior to conducting an investigation. You may decline to consent to an investigation, and that determination will be honored unless the Upstate Medical University’s failure to act does not adequately mitigate the risk of harm to you or other members of the Upstate Medical University community. Honoring your request may limit our ability to meaningfully investigate and pursue conduct action against an accused individual. If we determine that an investigation is required, we will notify you and take immediate action as necessary to protect and assist you.

When you disclose an incident to someone who is responsible for responding to or reporting sexual violence or sexual harassment, but wish to maintain confidentiality, Upstate Medical University will consider many factors to determine whether to proceed despite that request. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Whether the accused has a history of violent behavior or is a repeat offender;
  • Whether the incident represents escalation, such as a situation that previously involved sustained stalking,
  • The increased risk that the accused will commit additional acts of violence;
  • Whether the accused used a weapon or force;
  • Whether the reporting individual is a minor; and
  • Whether we possess other means to obtain evidence such as security footage, and whether the report reveals a pattern of perpetration at a given location or by a particular group.

If the Upstate Medical University determines that it must move forward with an investigation, the reporting individual or victim/survivor will be notified and the Upstate Medical University will take immediate action as necessary to protect and assist them.

Public Awareness/Advocacy Events:

If you disclose a situation through a public awareness event such as “Take Back the Night,” candlelight vigils, protests, or other public event, the Upstate Medical University is not obligated to begin an investigation.  The Upstate Medical University may use the information you provide to inform the need for additional education and prevention efforts.

Anonymous Disclosure:

Anonymous reports of sexual violence can be made to Upstate Medical University Police by calling 315-464-4000.  The Hotline is for crisis intervention, resources and referrals and is not a reporting mechanism.  New York State Hotline for Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence: 1-800-942-6906.

Institutional Crime Reporting

Reports of certain crimes occurring in certain geographic locations will be included in the Upstate Medical University Clery Act Annual Security Report in an anonymized manner that neither identifies the specifics of the crime or the identity of the reporting individual or victim/survivor. The University is obligated to issue timely warnings of Clery Act crimes occurring within relevant geography that represent a serious or continuing threat to students and employees (subject to exceptions when potentially compromising law enforcement efforts and when the warning itself could potentially identify the reporting individual or victim/survivor). A reporting individual will never be identified in a timely warning. 

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows institutions to share information with parents when (1) there is a health or safety emergency, or (2) when the student is a dependent on either parents’ prior year tax return.  The Upstate Medical University will not share information about a report of sexual violence with parents without the permission of the reporting individual.