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For Safety's Sake

Sexual Assault and Harassment, Dating and Domestic Violence, Stalking

The University of Pittsburgh values the safety and health of all members of the Pitt community and seeks to foster an environment in which its students and employees treat other persons with respect, civility, and dignity. Any behavior that involves sexual assault or harassment, relationship violence, or stalking of another person is prohibited.

If substantiated, such behavior may result in criminal charges if reported to the Pitt Police Department and/or University disciplinary action if the Office of Student Conduct or the Title IX coordinator in the Office of Affirmative Action, Diversity, and Inclusion investigates a complaint or referral. The University will use these processes to investigate and resolve reports of sexual assault or harassment, relationship violence, and stalking. In cases involving sexual violence, the University understands that victims often times seek confidentiality and will attempt to honor such a request in most cases. However, the University will weigh such a request for confidentiality against any factors that may have a negative impact on the campus community, such as the use of a weapon or multiple alleged victims.

Accused students or employees should know that the initiation of any University proceedings does not preclude the possibility of criminal charges. Indeed, parallel University and criminal proceedings are not uncommon.

In addition to using these processes, the University will continue to engage in prevention programs and training for students, faculty, and staff in an effort to prevent sexual assault and harassment, relationship violence, and stalking. Pitt's Office of Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (SHARE) provides counseling to victims of sexual assault, assists victims in obtaining medical care, and offers support in all aspects of the recovery process. Under the direction of Mary Koch Ruiz, the office also coordinates the University's educational programs and active approach to preventing sexual assault on campus.

Following are key definitions and a summary of the University's efforts related to prevention, resources, reporting, and the disciplinary processes available to victims of sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking. More detailed information about these programs, processes, and procedures can be found in the Student Code of Conduct and the Employee Handbook.

Summary of Important Definitions

The following is a summary of important definitions related to sexual assault and relationship violence. View all legal or technical definitions in Chart I or Chart II.

Sexual Assault is a term that encompasses rape, forcible fondling, incest, and statutory rape. In Pennsylvania, sexual assault also is a separate statute defined as sexual intercourse or deviate sexual intercourse without the complainant's consent.

Relationship Violence refers to domestic and dating violence.

Stalking means engaging in acts toward another person with the intent to place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or cause emotional distress.*

Consent is an informed, affirmative decision made freely and actively by all parties to engage in mutually acceptable sexual activity. Consent is given by clear words or actions and may not be inferred from silence, passivity, or lack of resistance alone. Existence of a current or previous dating, marital, and/or sexual relationship is not sufficient to constitute consent to additional sexual activity. Consent to one type of sexual activity does not imply consent to other types of sexual activity.

Someone who is unconscious, asleep, or otherwise mentally or physically incapacitated, whether due to alcohol, drugs, or some other condition, cannot give consent. Consent cannot be obtained by force, intimidation, threat, coercion, isolation, or confinement. Agreement obtained under such conditions does not constitute consent. A person's use of alcohol and/or other drugs does not necessarily eliminate his or her responsibility to obtain consent.*

Consent under Title 18 of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code

a. General Rule: The consent of the victim to conduct charged to constitute an offense or to the result thereof is a defense if such consent negates an element of the offense or precludes the infliction of the harm or evil sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense.*

b. Consent to bodily injury: When conduct is charged to constitute an offense because it causes or threatens bodily injury, consent to such conduct or to the infliction of such injury is a defense if:

  1. the conduct and the injury are reasonably foreseeable hazards of joint participation in a lawful athletic contest or competitive sport or
  2. the consent establishes a justification for the conduct under Chapter 5 of this title (relating to general principles of justification).*

c. Ineffective consent: Unless otherwise provided by this title or by the law defining the offense, assent does not constitute consent if:

  1. it is given by a person who is legally incapacitated to authorize the conduct charged to constitute the offense;
  2. it is given by a person who by reason of youth, mental disease or defect, or intoxication is manifestly unable or known by the actor to be unable to make a reasonable judgment as to the nature or harmfulness of the conduct charged to constitute the offense;
  3. it is given by a person whose improvident consent is sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense; or
  4. it is induced by force, duress, or deception of a kind sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense.*

* West's Pennsylvania Criminal Justice 2014 Pamphlet (Eagan, Minn.: Thomson Reuters, 2014).

Office of Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (SHARE)

The University has a comprehensive array of prevention and educational programs aimed at ending sexual assaults and harassment, relationship violence, and stalking that include
the following:

  • Peer Education: There are two organizations that provide educational programming. Let's RAVE (Raise Awareness and Victim Empowerment) and PantherWELL are student organizations consisting of more than 75 highly trained peer educators who present programs on dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The focus of the programs is bystander intervention, which is designed to provide students with the skills necessary to safely intervene when circumstances of sexual or interpersonal violence or stalking are about to occur or are occurring. Students also are given information on risk reduction strategies to help them to address conditions that facilitate violence.
  • New and Transfer Students: Incoming students are required to complete Haven, an online course on sexual assault and harassment, and attend the Tipping Point program, at which alcohol use and sexual misconduct are addressed in a direct manner.
  • Dating Violence Awareness Week: Special events and programming take place every October to draw attention to this issue.
  • Awareness Campaign: Campuswide sexual assault and consent awareness campaigns, featuring videos and creative print advertising, are used throughout the year to educate students about the issues.
  • Sexual Assault Awareness Week: A variety of programs occurs each spring during Sexual Assault Awareness Week to reinforce the messages by engaging students in interactive events.
  • University Police Seminars: Members of Pitt's police are trained in responding to and investigating sex offenses, domestic violence, and stalking incidents. The Pitt police
    provide special programs on sexual assault and other safety issues to student groups upon request.
  • Community Speakers: Pittsburgh Action Against Rape and the Center for Victims also provided speakers for campus groups during the past year.

Q: What should I do if I am sexually assaulted?

A: Many times, victims of sexual assault feel traumatized or blame themselves and are reluctant to seek help and proper medical care. If an individual has been the victim of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and/or stalking, or think they may have been, there are several options for reporting the incident and for obtaining the information, assistance, and support needed for all aspects of recovery, both emotional and physical.


  • Physical Safety: Your immediate safety is the top priority. As quickly as possible, find a safe place away from the perpetrator or any other potential danger.

    Seek medical attention as soon as possible. You are encouraged to seek immediate medical attention for your own physical health and to preserve all physical evidence. You can receive treatment at any medical facility; hospital emergency departments are in the best position to treat you and collect physical evidence.
  • Contact the Police: You are strongly encouraged to call the Pitt Police Department (412-624-2121) or the city of Pittsburgh police at 911 and report the situation.
  • Contact the Office of Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (SHARE) coordinator, Mary Koch Ruiz, at 412-648-7930 (8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Monday through Friday) or 412-648-7856 (after 5 p.m. and on weekends). She will advise victims of reporting options, can guide students through the process of receiving a medical exam, and will assist victims in notifying campus or local police authorities if desired.

Reporting Options

Several options are available for you to pursue if you want to report sexual violence.

  • You may file a referral through the University's Office of Student Conduct if the alleged assailant is a University of Pittsburgh student (412-648-7918; 738 William Pitt Union). The referral may be resolved through an administrative meeting or a hearing. Potential sanctions range from disciplinary reprimand (with possible residence hall dismissal if the accused lives on campus) to disciplinary dismissal from the University of Pittsburgh.
  • You may file a complaint with the University's Title IX Coordinator, housed in the Office of Affirmative Action, Diversity, and Inclusion. This office investigates complaints of this nature against faculty, teaching assistants (TAs), graduate student assistants (GSAs), and staff
  • You may file a criminal complaint by contacting the Pitt police (412-624-2121) or city of Pittsburgh police (911).
  • You may file an anonymous complaint on the University of Pittsburgh Police Department Web site. However, this option greatly limits the University's ability to respond to and investigate the report.

Sexual Assault Information

Q: Does contacting the police mean I have to press charges?

A: No. You do not have to press charges if you call the police. However, if the sexual assault occurred on campus, Pitt police will initiate an investigation.

Q: If I report a sexual assault, will my name become public? What happens to the information?

A: Security personnel will file an anonymous record of any on-campus assault among Pitt's crime statistics in order to give an accurate representation of crime on campus and to help prevent further crimes of this nature. In general, campus and city of Pittsburgh newspapers and other media outlets do not reveal names of victims of sexual assault.

Q: Do I have to get medical attention?

A: Although you are not required to seek medical care, it is highly encouraged. Taking care of your physical and medical state is an important role in the healing process. You may have internal or external injuries as a result of an assault that require medical care. Additionally, you may want to explore options for preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and/or pregnancy. The Student Health Service has staff that can confidentially assess pregnancy risk; test and treat for STDs; and assess, treat, and/or offer/give referrals for physical injuries.

Preserving Physical Evidence

In the aftermath of a sexual trauma, although it may not be foremost on your mind, the preservation of evidence is strongly encouraged. Even if you do not think you want to pursue a criminal or civil proceeding, preserving evidence keeps your options open in case you change your mind. To preserve evidence, do not shower, douche, or change clothes or bedding before you seek medical attention. Also, if oral contact took place, do not brush teeth, smoke, or eat. Optimally, evidence collection should occur within 72 hours of the assault, and there are medical facilities in Oakland that can assist you:

  • Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC Emergency Room
    300 Halket Street, 412-641-4933
  • UPMC Presbyterian Emergency Room
    200 Lothrop Street, 412-647-3333
  • Student Health Service, Wellness Center, Nordenberg Hall
    119 University Place, 412-383-1800

Only hospital emergency rooms can collect physical evidence of sexual assault. Therefore, your best source of immediate medical help is the nearest hospital emergency room. All hospitals are required by law to report to the police any injury that is the result of a crime. This does not obligate you to file formal charges.

Counseling and Medical Services and Other Available Support

Counseling Services

Seeking emotional support in the aftermath of sexual violence is very important for recovery. Pitt's Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education coordinator offers specialized
counseling services designed to assist students who have experienced sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, harassment, and stalking. The coordinator also can assist with referrals to specialized counseling services off campus. Additional counseling resources include the University Counseling Center (412-648-7930) and Pittsburgh Action Against Rape

Student Health Service

Pitt's Student Health Service provides ongoing confidential medical treatment for any physical problems related to an assault. The Student Health Service can assess for pregnancy risk; test and treat for sexually transmitted diseases; and assess, treat, and/or offer/give referrals for physical injuries. Student Health Service is located in the Wellness Center in Nordenberg Hall, 119 University Place, 412-383-1800.

Seeking Protective Measures

Depending on the circumstances, you may have the option, among other remedies, to obtain no-contact orders, seek room or course changes, file student judicial or administrative harassment complaints, and pursue criminal complaints. For more information and assistance, you can contact the Student Conduct Office (412-648-7910); the Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Affirmative Action, Diversity, and Inclusion (412-648-7860); and/or Pitt's Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education coordinator (412-648-7930).

Additional Resources

University of Pittsburgh students can contact their resident assistant (RA), resident director (RD), or other residence life staff member for support (available 24 hours a day).

Any member of the University community also may contact the University's affirmative action/Title IX coordinator at 412-648-7860. This office investigates allegations of sexual misconduct, among other things.

If you do not want to call the police after an incident but feel the need to leave the current environment, Pitt's SafeRider program may be able to offer you transportation back to your residence by calling 412-648-CALL (2255). More information about SafeRider can be obtained at: www.pc.pitt.edu/transportation/saferider.php.

Community resources include Pittsburgh Action Against Rape at 1-866-363-7273 (answers 24 hours a day) and the Center for Victims at 1-866-644-2882 (answers 24 hours a day). Both groups provide an advocate/escort to accompany victims through the medical and/or legal process. Students who seek assistance from these organizations are not obligated to press charges against the assailant.

Disciplinary Process for Sexual Assault, Relationship Violence, and Stalking

The University has the authority to take disciplinary action for conduct occurring off campus when the conduct, among other things, threatens the safety of the University community. University officials will provide a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation and resolution.

If the Assailant Is a University Student
If the alleged assailant is a University student, the victim (referring student) may file a complaint (called a referral) against the accused for violation of the Student Code of Conduct. This referral may be resolved through an administrative meeting or a hearing. In addition, the accused student may face criminal charges.

In the absence of a referral, the University may proceed with an investigation and resolution of any reported acts of sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking if the University determines that such investigation and resolution are necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of University community members.

Student Disciplinary Process: From Initial Meeting through Hearing
Upon learning of an incident of sexual assault or harassment, relationship violence, or stalking, the conduct officer will meet with the victim to discuss confidentiality concerns and the conduct process in general. If the victim elects to file a referral against the accused student, the conduct officer will begin an investigation by meeting with the referring student and the accused student as necessary.

At the initial meeting with the accused student, the conduct officer will give the student adequate notice of, and an opportunity to review and respond to, the allegations outlined in the submitted referral. The conduct officer also will give both parties written notice of available on and off-campus medical, counseling, legal, and other relevant resources and written notice about interim measures such as no-contact orders and appropriate and available academic, housing, transportation, dining, and working accommodations. In cases in which the accused student's conduct poses a threat to the University community, the conduct officer may impose an interim suspension that occurs immediately and that lasts until an investigation ends and/or the hearing is convened.

Both the accused student and the referring student will have the opportunity to review evidence gathered during the investigation or submitted by the opposing party. Both students also may provide testimony and evidence at the hearing before unbiased board members who are trained annually on issues related to sexual violence, the hearing process, standards of evidence, credibility, and weight of evidence. Both parties will be allowed to offer input into the sanctions imposed should the hearing board find the accused student responsible. The hearing board will make recommendations to the dean of students, who will make the final determination of any imposed sanctions.

The entire conduct process will be prompt and timely, with a general time frame of 60 days for investigation and resolution, unless the University demonstrates good cause for the process to take longer. The conduct officer will notify both parties of any developments, as appropriate.

In addition, both the referring student and the accused student will receive the same opportunities to have an advisor of their choosing present during any conduct proceeding, to be informed in writing simultaneously of the outcome of any proceeding, and to have a right to appeal the final decision of any such proceeding. If the alleged victim is deceased as a result of such crime or offense, the next of kin of such victim shall be treated as the alleged victim for purposes of this paragraph. All matters before the hearing board will be judged using the preponderance of the evidence standard, which means, is it more likely than not that the Student Code of Conduct was violated?

Complete information on the University judicial process can be found in the Student Code of Conduct.

Sanctions Available
Sanctions may include a disciplinary reprimand; a permanent no-contact order or permanent persona non grata status for some portion or all of campus locations; counseling assessment; disciplinary probation for a specified period of time; housing dismissal; disciplinary suspension for a specified period of time; disciplinary dismissal from the University; and any other appropriate measures that support the University's commitment to address, prevent, and end the effects of sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking.

If the victim pursues legal action in the public court system, an accused student could face criminal penalties as well.

If the Assailant Is a University Employee
If the alleged assailant is a University employee and the victim is either a University employee or student, in addition to possible criminal legal action, the victim has the option to proceed under the process outlined by the Office of Affirmative Action, Diversity, and Inclusion. This office will conduct a prompt investigation and can be reached by contacting the University's Title IX coordinator at 412-648-7860.

Retaliation against anyone involved in the investigation of alleged incidents of sexual misconduct, whether they are the referring individual, a witness, an investigator or anyone else, is prohibited by the University's Statement on Confidentiality and Nonretaliation www.cfo.pitt.edu/policies/policy/07/07-01-03.html. This statement also clarifies that all individuals involved in the investigation process are expected to honor the confidentiality of the process and the information involved.


University of Pittsburgh Police EMERGENCIES 4-2121
or Noncampus Phone

General Assistance 4-4040
or 412-624-4040

Office of Sexual Harassment
and Assault Response
and Education (SHARE)


Student Health Service

University Counseling Center

Student Conduct

Environmental Health and Safety

412-648-CALL (2255)

Panther Central


(Off Campus)

City of Pittsburgh
Police, Fire, Ambulance

Pittsburgh Action Against Rape
24-hour hotline

Center for Victims
24-hour Crisis Hotline

Pennsylvania Department
of Public Welfare ChildLine
for abuse reporting


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