What is the Survivor’s Bill of Rights?

Students call for a change in policy amid sexual assault allegations.


Woman at Sunday night’s Theta Chi protest by Abbie Gracie

AMHERST–The Student Government Association (SGA) released a statement on Monday recognizing survivors of sexual assault and the history of rape culture at UMass, after the recent sexual assault allegations against Theta Chi. It called for the implementation of the Survivor’s Bill of Rights by the university administration, saying that “it is the responsibility and the moral obligation of the administrations and staff of this university to provide us with an environment in which we can safely live and learn.”

The Survivor’s Bill of Rights would act as a policy change in the university’s response to sexual assault. The bill would suspend involved fraternity chapters, launch criminal investigations and expel all students found guilty of sexual misconduct. The document helps to center the voices of survivors, support their needs with campus resources and increase sexual assault and harassment education.

The bill asks that survivors are entitled to:

  1. Many reporting options, including the ability to confidentially disclose a crime/violation and the option to make a report to authorized university employees and/or campus and local police.
  2. Thorough criminal investigations led by trauma-informed professionals.
  3. Freedom from victim-blaming and unnecessary questioning by the university.
  4. Access to school-based accommodations.
  5. Healthcare needed in cases of pregnancy.
  6. Mental health care including counseling and other resources.
  7. Options to change academic and living situations.
  8. Accessible, supportive measures and resources circulated by professors and syllabi. These resources should specifically address the needs of each individual survivor.

The bill also proposes other policies, including:

  1. An amnesty policy for the use of alcohol or illegal substances near the time of the incident for survivors and bystanders who disclose information “in good faith.”
  2. An affirmative consent standard recognizing consent as “affirmative, conscious, enthusiastic, continuous, revocable, sober, informed, specific, freely-given and voluntary.”
  3. Increased training for students, faculty, staff and administration on sexual and dating violence.
  4. Establishment of a task force that addresses campus sexual violence.
  5. Implementation of annual surveys to assess the prevalence of sexual and dating violence within the campus community.

The bill also addresses visibility and accessibility, asking that a copy be distributed annually to students, made available on university websites, and posted around campus.

The Survivor’s Bill of Rights was first presented to Chancellor Subbaswamy in 2015. It was originally drafted by the Coalition to End Rape Culture, alongside other groups including, Carry That Weight, Know Your IX and the United States Student Association. Since its creation, other student groups such as the SGA have updated and supported the document.

In March 2021, over 1500 students voted in favor of the Survivor’s Bill of Rights during the SGA elections.

On its website, the SGA invites students to participate in an email campaign to the administration demanding the implementation of the Survivor’s Bill of Rights. 

The entire Survivor’s Bill of Rights can be read here.

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