Respondent Support Office
The term Respondent refers to an individual who is alleged to have committed an act of misconduct that transgresses the Student Code of Conduct, Title IX, or the actions described in AD-85. If you have been accused of misconduct, the process can be stressful. Penn State provides a number of resources that can help you understand the University’s processes, obtain reasonable academic or other accommodations, and access University or community support services.
How we may be able to support you
The Respondent Support Office is here to help you continue with your studies and participation in the Penn State Community while your case is being investigated and decided.
The office can help you engage with academic accommodations and University resources that can support you, connect with community resources that may have no ties to Penn State, and explain the rights and options that you have while going through the process. We hope to make the process as transparent and clear as possible so that Respondents can know what to expect, choose a response in keeping with their best interest, and have their perspectives heard and considered during the course of an investigation.
The Respondent Support Person can also help you give voice to some of the challenges and concerns you have had since being named in a report. Every person responds to being named differently, and the Respondent Support Office is here to help you process those feelings while you prepare to answer an allegation.
- What you may feel after being accused of sexual misconduct
Learning that you have been named in a Title IX case or being accused of sexual misconduct can be a potentially unnerving and challenging experience. Your responses to these accusations are normal reactions to a difficult situation. Dealing with these emotions isn’t easy, and there are resources, both on and off campus, available to help you. Though emotional responses differ from one person to the next, you may experience some of the emotions listed below:
Surprise or disbelief
First and foremost, you may be surprised that the incident was reported at all. Your perspective on the event(s) in question may be very different from what was expressed by other parties, and you may not have felt that you did anything wrong. It is natural to feel surprised in such a situation, and the process is designed to allow all parties to share their perspectives.
Anger is a common emotion whenever someone has been accused of sexual misconduct. This is an appropriate response; however, the important factor to consider when dealing with anger is how you process through the anger. There are several ways you can vent any anger you are experiencing, including speaking with a friend, family member, adviser or counsellor. Though it may seem like the natural thing to do, challenge yourself to deal with your anger in healthy, productive ways. Instead of engaging in self-destructive behavior, find positive outlets for that energy, such as going to the gym or meeting friends for an event.
You may be experiencing fear of the unknown, as the outcome of the investigation could impact your status at the University. You may also fear how the allegation will impact how others perceive you or act around you. You may even fear that you will be retaliated against if the allegation becomes broadly known. If you feel as though you are being retaliated against, please let your contact at the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevent and Response know. Retaliation, in any form and against or between any party, is not tolerated as a result of or during the fulfillment of a Title IX process.
Impact on Your Daily Life
With everything going on, you may feel like your daily life has been impacted. While participating in an investigation, it may become challenging to pay attention in class, complete campus responsibilities, or even follow through with your coursework. Due to the uncertainty of the case and the meetings you may have, you may find yourself feeling more anxious, tired, stressed, or depressed than usual. Accommodations may be available to help ease the effects of the investigation on your life at Penn State. If you have questions regarding accommodations, please contact the Office of Sexual Misconduct, Prevention and Response.
Taking on the burden of the allegation may cause you to withdraw from your support and social networks because you may feel like it is “your problem.” It is common for individuals who are accused to prefer not to discuss the situation with anyone for fear of embarrassment or how it may be perceived by others. However, talking with a counselor or adviser may help you process your experiences and feelings, helping you to feel more at ease. During an investigation, it is important to stay connected with the things and people that bring you contentment and joy. While it may be hard at first, challenge yourself to continue your normal, positive activities.
Many respondents worry how the outcome of a Title IX investigation (whether in their favor or against) will impact their pursuit of work or color their reputation moving forward. Oftentimes, respondents feel that they have been indicated in a report not out of malice but because of a mistake. Talk with your case manager or respondent support coordinator for a better picture of how (and when) the University discloses a student’s association with a Title IX investigation.