The sanctioning of perpetrators of sexual assault and dating and domestic violence is a complex task that must take into account a) the healing of survivors and ensuring their future safety; b) protecting the safety of the community; and c) holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. In order to meet these multiple goals, an appropriate mix of sanctions should be determined for each case. SAPAC recommends implementing OSCR’s existing sanction options such as disciplinary probation, restriction from employment from the university, university housing removal, removal from courses or activities, no contact, suspension, and expulsion, in addition to the following:
A. Assessment, Classification, and Long-Term Treatment by a Local Therapist
Assessment: A standardized, valid and reliable assessment method is the first step to accurately classify the risk a specific assailant poses to the community. The overall goal of the risk assessment is to guide intervention and treatment, protect the safety of the public, and manage liability.
Sound, research-based assessment is essential in the treatment and management of people who commit sex offenses. With the stakes so high - public protection and deprivation of liberty - it is critical to use assessment tools that comport with research on risk of re-offending. (Katsavdakis, Weissman, and Rosenthal, 2004).
The Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (VRAG) and its companion Sex Offender Risk Appraisal Guide (SORAG) are examples of evidence-based sexual offense recidivism assessment tools. The tools give the probability (from zero to 100%) that an offender will commit a new violent offense within a specified period. Two meta-analyses have indicated the VRAG and SORAG achieve the highest accuracies in the prediction of violent recidivism yet reported in the scientific literature. (link)
Classification: Sexual recidivism rates in the community vary by key factors that must be carefully assessed in order to accurately identify the risk an offender poses to the community, and what steps must be taken to reduce or moderate risk for the community. (Katsavdakis, et. al., 2004).
Treatment: There is evidence that some treatment approaches are effective for some people who commit sex offenses. Researchers are beginning to identify the relevant factors associated with the risk for sexual re-offending, and identify what approaches work for which type of offenders. (Katsavdakis, et. al, 2004). Certain studies support the conclusion that treatment reduces the likelihood of sexual re-offense in the community (Katsavdakis, et. al, 2004).
The only meta-analysis of treatment outcome studies to date has found a small, yet significant treatment effect – an 8% reduction in the recidivism rate for offenders who participated in the entire treatment process (Hall, 1995). Research also demonstrates that sex offenders who fail to complete treatment programs are at increased risk for both sexual and general recidivism (Hanson and Bussiere, 1998).
Recommendation: Assessment, classification, and treatment should be conducted by a local therapist. In regards to treatment, research shows that reductions in recidivism rates usually occur only when the participant completes the entire treatment process. Thus, that is SAPAC’s recommendation. In addition, the person found responsible for the offense should be responsible for any treatment costs.
Please contact SAPAC at (734) 764-7771 for assistance in locating a local therapist who specializes in sex offender treatment or refer to the Michigan Mental Health Networker at www.mhweb.org for a list of local therapists.
B. Long-term intervention program:
A long-term intervention program is another sanction option. Intervention treatment programs can contribute to community safety because those who attend and cooperate with program conditions are less likely to re-offend than those who reject intervention. (From the Center of Sex Offender Management: A Project of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, http://www.csom.org/pubs/mythsfacts.html)
Offense specific treatment modalities generally involve group and/or individual therapy focused on victimization awareness and empathy training, cognitive restructuring, learning about the abuse cycle, relapse prevention planning, anger management and assertiveness training, and social and interpersonal skills development. (Center of Sex Offender Management)
Again, the only meta-analysis of treatment outcome studies to date has found a small, yet significant treatment effect – an 8% reduction in the recidivism rate for offenders who participated in treatment (Hall, 1995). Research also demonstrates that offenders who fail to complete treatment programs are at increased risk for recidivism. (Hanson and Bussiere, 1998)
Recommendation: Several intervention programs that specialize in the treatment of domestic and sexual violence offenders exist in the community. One such program is Alternatives to Domestic Aggression (ADA). Learn more about ADA by logging onto www.csswashtenaw.org/ada/.
Again, because research shows that those who attend and cooperate with intervention program conditions are less likely to re-offend than those who reject intervention, SAPAC recommends attendance of the full 52 sessions of an intervention program and that the offender pay for these sessions.
Please contact the SAPAC office at (734) 764-7771 for assistance in finding an appropriate intervention program or call ADA at (734) 971-9781.
C. Temporary suspension pending successful completion of long-term intervention program and/or treatment (or warning of suspension if treatment or intervention is not completed).
Recommendation: Temporary suspension or warning of suspension upon successful completion of either therapist treatment or a long-term intervention program is another recommended sanction option. This makes sense for many reasons. If a person is found responsible for sexual assault, dating or domestic violence, not only has he violated the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, but he also poses a threat to the campus community. Most sex offenders re-commit the crime and the strongest predictor of future violence is past violence. Thus, removal from this community until an expert advises that he is ready to re-enter the campus community is advisable. Also, successful completion of the treatment or intervention program is necessary and crucial. If a person is unsuccessful in completing treatment, he still poses a threat to the campus community and is not ready to return.
D. Removal or non-renewal of scholarships:
Another sanctioning option is the removal or non-renewal of scholarships. Because no one has a right to a scholarship, institutions or those enforcing the conduct code do not have to justify not awarding a scholarship and/or declining to renew a scholarship (Benedict, 1997).
Benedict (1997) discusses scholarship removal for athletes in particular; however, the same standards can apply for non-athletes as well.
A 1994 study of the records of judicial affairs officers at 10 institutions whose football and basketball teams perennially finish in the top 20 in Division 1 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Three researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that male athletes – who make up only 3 percent of all male students – were accused of 19 percent of the sexual assaults and 35 percent of the cases of domestic violence that were reported to campus officials by female students (Benedict, 1997).
Under N.C.A.A. rules, scholarships can be revoked if athletes are found to have committed serious acts that warrant disciplinary action by college authorities (Benedict, 1997).
Also, any financial payments that have not already been credited to a student’s account may become the student’s responsibility. For example, if tuition covered by the scholarship has already been credited to the student for the semester, room and board payments that typically are paid from the scholarship on a month-to-month basis might become the student’s responsibility (Benedict, 1997).
The scholarship could also be revoked for the next semester. Since scholarships are awarded on a one-year basis, the institution also can decline to renew an award for the following year (Benedict, 1997).
Even if campus authorities cannot prove that an alleged crime, such as rape, took place, they are justified in revoking the athlete’s scholarship altogether if the athlete violated the student conduct code, perhaps by having alcohol in the dormitory at the time of the incident (Benedict, 1997).
Recommendation: Various researchers articulate the fact that no one has a right to a scholarship, and institutions or those enforcing the conduct code do not have to justify not awarding a scholarship and/or declining to renew a scholarship. For athletes in particular, under N.C.A.A. rules, scholarships can be revoked if athletes are found to have committed serious acts that warrant disciplinary action by college authorities.
When a student commits sexual assault, dating or domestic violence, he has violated the Statement, as well as the safety and integrity of the campus community. Therefore, it is SAPAC’s recommendation that scholarships are either revoked or not renewed, or that the person found responsible is accountable for any financial payments that have not already been credited to their account. For example, tuition or room and board costs. The student’s scholarship could also be revoked for the next semester. Since scholarships are awarded on a one-year basis, the institution also can decline to renew an award for the following year.
E. Transcript Entry:
Brown University’s Office of Student Life incorporates transcript entry as one of their sanctions. A transcript entry is a notation on a student’s official University transcript. Brown University’s policy states that a transcript entry may accompany a deferred suspension and will accompany a suspension or expulsion. Following a deferred suspension or a suspension, a student may petition to have a transcript notation removed after one full semester without any additional violations of the Student Code of Conduct.
Recommendation: SAPAC recommends that a transcript entry be implemented either on its own or in combination with any other sanction. The entry should indicate that this person was found responsible for sexual misconduct or dating or domestic violence. When a person commits sexual assault, he threatens the safety not only of the survivor, but also of the entire campus and greater community. A transcript entry may serve to inform others of the potential risk this person poses to the community or future communities he may become a part of.
When appropriate, a fine may accompany the sanction of any non-academic disciplinary hearing. At Brown University’s Office of Student Life, they specify a range of fines from $25 for conduct violations such as property damage or theft from University property to $1000 for violations such as pulling a false alarm. (http://brown.edu/Student_Services/Office_of_Student_Life/randr/nadp/sanctions.html)
Recommendation: SAPAC recommends that a fine accompany other sanctions. Because it is difficult to place a monetary value on such an offense, SAPAC recommends that a person found responsible for sexual assault pay the survivor for costs incurred by the survivor, such as medical costs, costs for therapy, etc. SAPAC also recommends that OSCR work with the survivor to determine what kind of financial restitution would be appropriate and/or helpful (i.e. medical, loss of wages, moving expenses, court fees, etc).
G. Upholding and Evaluating Sanctions
Recommendation: A mechanism for upholding sanctions and evaluating their effectiveness should be incorporated into the process. In order to maintain the integrity of the process, do what we can to keep the campus safe, educate students about why their behavior was in violation of the Statement, and hopefully create positive behavior change, we must ensure that sanctions are not only upheld, but also are effective.
Creating a review and assessment committee is very important for the creating, assessing, and updating of sanctions. This committee or task force should include members of every group with a stake, from students to administrators to counselors to campus police to rape education staff. By evaluating the success or failure of the policy in practice, the task force will be able to assess the effectiveness of the sanctions and their intended purposes (National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, 2004).