Auburn University - TITLE IX
Frequently Asked Questions | Police Reporting
Yes, Auburn University and Auburn Police strongly encourage immediate reporting of sexual misconduct. However, the survivor has the choice whether, when and how to report the incident.
Police investigators will want to meet with you and ask you detailed questions about the incident. We understand that the questions may be uncomfortable, but police officers are trained to ask necessary questions in a respectful way and to be sensitive to the trauma that survivors of sexual misconduct experience. Investigations typically include both a preliminary and a subsequent in-depth interview.
The investigators will try to gather specific information that will aid in their investigation and the prosecution of the offender, including the elements of the crime(s), witness and suspect information, and evidence. If you can identify the offender, investigators will follow-up with that person. Depending on the circumstances, investigators may also want to speak with others who were present before, during, or after the incident.
If less than 72 hours have passed since a sexual assault occurred, the police will encourage you to have a sexual assault forensic exam conducted by a trained nurse. During this exam, evidence is collected that may be used to help prosecute the offender. If you choose not to have the forensic exam, police will still encourage you to seek medical attention to include testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases or infections.
The police will keep you informed and let you control how the investigation proceeds through each step. Survivors are encouraged to use friends and advocates for support, and those supporters are invited to attend any meetings with police.
Federal law requires that Auburn University notify the campus community of certain crimes that happen on or immediately adjacent to campus property. At Auburn University, this notice is referred to as a public safety notice or timely warning and is generally issued as an email and social media post (Twitter and Facebook) from the Department of Public Safety & Security. If it is believed that the crime reported poses an ongoing threat to the campus community, a timely warning will be issued. However, the notification will not contain any identifying information about you or specific details of the incident that might identify you. The notice is intended to be a resource for the entire community, to provide information that can help protect the campus community, and to offer support for people who may have experienced or know someone who has experienced sexual violence.
If you experience sexual misconduct, you can report the incident to the police even if you do not know whether it qualifies as a crime. The police can help determine what options are available to you through the criminal justice process and refer you to other resources on campus or in the community. We understand that survivors sometimes are uncertain about reporting sexual misconduct to police if, for example, they are in a relationship with the offender, if there are no apparent physical injuries, or if the offender stopped or got scared away during the incident. Sexual misconduct can happen anywhere, in any form and with anyone, and we treat reports of sexual misconduct seriously in all cases.
Some survivors may be wary of reporting incidents to the police if they were engaged in certain activities before or during the incident, such as underage alcohol consumption or illegal drug use. Remember that nothing you did caused the incident to happen. The police themselves want to support and be advocates for survivors, and they will be focused on your well-being rather than punishing you for low-level offenses that may have occurred. Disclaimer: Auburn University cannot control or guarantee how the police will handle any particular incident.
Sometimes offenders may use drugs or alcohol when committing sexual misconduct, so the survivor may have no recollection of what happened. The police can still help by finding witnesses and using other evidence to piece together what happened.
If you suspect you have been sexually assaulted, it is important to preserve physical evidence that can be useful in the identification and prosecution of an offender even if you do not yet know if you want to pursue criminal charges. You should not bathe, change clothes or straighten up before meeting with the police. You can visit a hospital where a trained nurse can conduct a sexual assault forensic exam and collect necessary physical evidence, but you are not required to undergo this exam.
Survivors are strongly encouraged to report incidents to the police immediately. The sooner the police are notified, the more likely they will be able to gather useful evidence which could be crucial in pursuing criminal charges against the offender. However, survivors may report an incident of sexual misconduct to the police at any time. Statutes of limitation vary from crime to crime; for example, in Alabama there is no statute of limitation on rape.
A criminal investigation and a university investigation have separate purposes and proceed independently of each other. Police seek to arrest and convict people who have broken the law. Auburn University considers whether a student has violated university policy and warrants disciplinary sanctions. Investigators on either side may share information regarding the incident – generally unless it’s against the wishes of the survivor – but the two processes are separate and the standards for holding someone responsible differ. In a criminal trial, the defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In the university disciplinary process, the standard is whether it is more likely than not that a university policy violation occurred. See #12 for exceptions
You can contact police, but we strongly encourage you to consult with the survivor before acting on their behalf. Filing a police report is an important decision for survivors, and they are the ones who should control how they proceed. Police are not likely to conduct an investigation if the survivor is not ready or comfortable with that choice. It is more helpful to support a survivor’s decision whether or not to report a crime, rather than making that report – and that decision – on their behalf.
If you share a residence hall or have classes in common with the offender, the Title IX Office or Safe Harbor can unitsassist with accommodations to help you to avoid coming into contact with the offender during the course of your everyday activities on campus. If the alleged offender is arrested, the judge may order that person to not contact you as a condition of the perpetrator’s bond or probation. The offender can be arrested and charged with a crime if that person violates the judge’s order. Additionally, the university can issue a no-contact order if the offender is a university student or employee, and university disciplinary action can be taken if that person violates the university’s order.
Police reports regarding incidents that occur on university property are shared with university officials. The police also notify the university about reports of sexual misconduct involving students or employees regardless of location, and the associated police reports may be shared with the university depending on the circumstances and the desires of the survivor. The university reviews reports and determines what action, if any, is appropriate, such as initiation of a Title IX investigation (in which you may decide whether or not to participate), implementation of safety measures, or issuance of a crime notification to campus.
Auburn University has confidential resources and advocates at Safe Harbor you may speak with before deciding to report through a non-confidential process, like filing a police report. If you are not sure how to proceed, you are encouraged to talk with someone about the decision.