We hope that you’ve been having a great semester so far and we’re excited to be back and answering all your questions about your intimate relationships. This week’s blog has a little bit of everything; we’ll touch on the reporting process, communication and complicated friendships, and whether it’s a good idea to reconnect with your ex. We’re kicking off the school year with some great questions, so read on below!
Q: What happens if something is ‘reported’?
A: As staff addressing gender-based violence, we are answering this question in the context of a gender-based violence report. We wanted to do our due diligence to make sure whomever may need this information gets to the right place and has basic knowledge of the reporting process, if they or someone else they know has experienced gender-based violence.
To understand what happens when something is reported, it may be helpful to start with who is required to do the reporting. In instances of gender-based violence (sexual and partner violence) on campus, in accordance with the Clery Act (a federal law enacted in 1990 that requires universities to provide transparency around on-campus crimes), the vast majority of university employees are mandated reporters. Mandated reporters are also known as responsible employees. Responsible employees are non-confidential resources. They are required by law to report any instance of gender-based violence to the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE).
There are other employees (including the authors of this article!) who are confidential resources who are NOT required to report disclosures (with a few specific exceptions). If you want to talk about something but aren’t sure you want kickstart an official OIE reporting process, confidential resources are a great option. To learn more about how confidential resources work, check out this blog post. The “We Listen. You Decide.” page of this website also has great info about confidential resources.
If someone discloses experiencing any type of gender-based harm or form of violence as defined by either the University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and Procedures (SMPP) or Title IX (a federal law enacted in 1972 that protects people from discrimination based on sex in educational programs or activities receiving federal funding) and it’s subsequently reported to OIE, then that report goes to OIE which will investigate the incident. OIE will reach out to the person who filed the report (known as the complainant), as well as the person against whom the report was filed (known as the respondent), to let them know that a report was made.
Depending on the experience alleged, OIE will decide to launch an investigation on the incident reported.
To quickly summarize the process, once an investigation begins, OIE will begin collecting facts and conducting interviews and start drafting a report on the incident at hand. After being drafted and obtaining feedback and reviews from both parties, OIE will send the report to them with their recommended findings on whether the respondent violated Title IX or the SMPP. The report then goes to a hearing panel, consisting of affiliates and a community person with legal experience. The panel decides whether sanctions will be imposed on the respondent and what those sanctions will be, if the respondent is found responsible for one or more violations of the law and/or the policy.
We encourage anyone who has any questions about the reporting process to reach out to the Gender-Based Violence Prevention, Education and Response Team. All of the GBVP staffers are confidential resources, and you can ask them questions to clarify what happens when a report is made or how to navigate the reporting process, if someone chooses to file a report.
~Tyler and Jay
Q: I have a frenemy in my circle who greets every setback with the statement that bad things happen just to make you stronger and it’s a choice to be a victim. I strongly disagree with this. Some people find empowerment in overcoming challenges and traumas but that’s not universal. It’s unkind and ignorant to say that to sad people, whether it’s brain chemistry or external factors that make them feel low. Sometimes bad things are just bad, and there’s no higher purpose that will make the bad things not bad.
Is there anything I can say in the moment to push back when this person is saying this stuff? Normally I’d ignore it, but I worry that she’s making people who already feel bad feel even worse.
A: First, I want to give you props on your empathy for others hearing a message that might be invalidating, and being willing to sit in the uncertainty of navigating this conflict with this person.
Second, I want to say that there is no magical phrase to get someone to change. If you continue to associate with this person directly or indirectly, know that this could be an ongoing process.
In my opinion, defensiveness is one of the biggest hurdles to having difficult conversations. When it comes to beliefs and morals, people tend to have personal experiences that inform those stances. Questioning their beliefs can feel like questioning the person themself. Anger and stress can derail the conversation to low blows or past issues or the person completely shutting down. There are a few things you can do to have a productive version of this type of conversation.
Lead with curiosity. Start with “Hey, I’ve always wondered how you came to that idea,” or “I’m curious how you started to say/believe that, considering…”
Use “I” statements. Even if it’s the person’s words and actions you’re addressing, pointing the finger won’t help. Try saying “I feel really [shocked/surprised/confused/etc.] when I hear statements like that because I’ve learned that….”
Don’t be afraid to tap out. If you or the person are just getting agitated and the conversation isn’t going anywhere, don’t be afraid to take a pause. You can say, “I think this has been a good conversation so far, but I’ll have to table it for now. I’d like to continue it, though.” If someone else is also concerned about those statements and is willing to also talk to the person, that’s great too. The idea isn’t to gang up on the person, but to share the load of the responsibility of helping them see how those statements can be harmful. We want to call people in, not call them out.
This article from the Gottman Institute can be helpful for navigating conflict with your frenemy. (Gottman mainly does work around couples and families, but the advice works for friendships and other relationships too.)
The other option is to not say anything to the frenemy but say something to the people hearing them. In our Bystander Intervention Training programs, we talk about four different ways of addressing harmful statements. Depending on different factors, it may be better to talk to people hearing the statement afterward. You could say “Hey, what [Frenemy] said must have been invalidating, especially with all that you’re going through. I wondered if you wanted to talk about it?” or “I don’t believe what [Frenemy] said is right. Your reaction to [events] is valid.”
Q: My ex wants to reconnect after a period of no contact. I have grown a lot as a person since but I’m unsure what their intentions are and how to approach them.
A: To start, I want to say that I’m proud of you and your personal growth! While it’s never easy to end a relationship, taking the time to reframe your mindset and think of an ending as a new beginning is great if that was what you needed.
As for your ex, do what’s best for you! If you aren’t sure about how the interaction will go, if you don’t know how comfortable you are with the prospect of meeting, or if you don’t think that reconnecting with them is going to add to your life right now, listen to your gut and respectfully decline. I also think this answer depends on the context of how the relationship went, how it ended, and what you want your relationship to be with this person moving forward.
That being said, reconnect with them if you think that it’s something you’d benefit from. Reconnecting is nothing more than a conversation, and the opportunity to see if what you felt for them still remains. Maybe this conversation will bring you closure. Maybe you’ll realize that this version of you still wants to be with them, but better than before. Life is too short to wonder “What if?” when there is a part of you that wants to meet up with your ex (and it’s safe for you to do so). It sounds like you know that you’ve grown and have maybe become happier or more confident in yourself, so don’t be afraid to put yourself first and maintain no contact if you’re onto your next chapter of life – one that doesn’t include your ex.
When thinking about relationships, whether we’re demonstrating self-love or showing love towards others, it’s important to make sure that we’re maintaining any boundaries that have been set. If you and your ex agreed to a period of no contact, think about whether enough time has passed since you last spoke or if they honored the amount of time you decided that you needed. Think about the boundaries you have for yourself, especially considering the growth that you’ve done since ending the relationship. Make sure that whatever you decide, it’s in your best interest and will serve to continue the growth that you’ve had. Know that this is just another step forward for you, and there’s no wrong decision because you got this either way.
As always, you can submit your questions to Dear Tyler + Jay using the link listed below. We also want to ensure that our readers know that they can access resources by emailing HopkinsGBVP@jh.edu to access survivor-led problem solving and additional services related to gender-based violence prevention. You can also access resources with the university’s newest campaign, “We Listen. You Decide.” It focuses on ensuring autonomy and choice when accessing services university-wide. With that, we’ll see you next time and have a great weekend!
Note: DT&J is intended to educate and spark discussion. The advice offered is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological, or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. If you need help getting started, you can email email@example.com.