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What to do if you experience sexual harassment or assault

This article was written in consultation with Valery Richardson, interim Title IX coordinator, Compliance Services. 

We hope that you will never face sexual harassment or assault here on campus, but we understand the reality that you may. This week, the Guru will walk you through the steps you can take, and resources that are available to you at the UW, if you are a victim of sexual misconduct.   

Sexual harassment — including sexual violence or sexual assault — is prohibited by Title IX. The best source for UW information can be found on two websites: the Sexual Assault Resources website and the Title IX website.   

For email or phone support, SafeCampus is staffed 24–7 and is a good place to start if you have personally experienced harassment or assault or receive information that someone else experienced harassment or assault. SafeCampus can provide immediate safety planning, provide important information about your rights and resources, and connect you with a confidential advocate who can help you consider all of your options and how to make a plan for your situation.

For victims of sexual assault, SafeCampus loosely breaks down your options into steps — which you could choose to initiate in any order that makes sense to you.  

Anyone who has experienced harassment, assault, or another form of sexual misconduct is encouraged to contact an advocateAdvocates will confidentially provide support, information and resources. An advocate will allow you to share your experience in as much or as little detail as you would like, discuss your options for medical and mental health care, and help you make a plan for your safety and for reducing the impact of this experience at the UW. Meeting with an advocate does not trigger an investigation by the UW or the police.  

If you have been sexually assaulted, seeking medical care can help to treat or prevent illness and injury. It’s also important for preserving evidence. You may also seek a disability accommodation if you are experiencing the impacts of a medical condition.  

You have the right to report sexual misconduct to the University, to the police, to both or not at all. If you choose to report an instance of sexual harassment, sexual assault or sexual violence to the UW, the University will conduct a prompt, fair and impartial investigation to determine whether a University policy or code — such as the Student Conduct Code or Executive Order No. 31 — has been violated.  

If you choose to file a police report, you have the right to have a support person or advocate with you. You may choose to file a report without pursuing an investigation or prosecution. For more information about criminal and civil proceedings that can result from a sexual assault report, please see the Sexual Assault Resources website 

If a friend has experienced sexual misconduct, there are ways you can provide support. Remember to be a good listener, avoid passing judgment, and provide your friend with options and resources for healing, emotional processing, and for learning the steps to file a complaint.  

If you wish to take action to reduce sexual violence on campus, you can learn about bystander awareness and join a group of Peer Health Educators through SafeCampus.  


How do you cope with a breakup of a long term relationship while job searching, moving and taking care of your family? It seems impossible. I feel crushed. I’ve used up my free counseling services due to a family crises earlier in my graduate experience. I don’t know what to do or where to go. My whole world is altered right before I was supposed to go out into the world determined for new experiences and greatness. I thought that I would have them to share that with me. But now it’s over. I’m lost. —I once was a bot

My heart goes out to you. The only responsible thing I can do is refer you to professional counseling. I do have a kernel of good news for you, though. You are still eligible for free counseling through the UW Counseling Center. There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there about counseling sessions for students. A representative from the Counseling Center confirmed that there used to be a cap on sessions in the past, but that is no longer the case. So you can absolutely go back and receive help for your current situation. Best best best of luck to you!

Ask the Grad School Guru is an advice column for all y’all graduate and professional students. Real questions from real students, answered by real people. If the guru doesn’t know the answer, the guru will seek out experts all across campus to address the issue. (Please note: The guru is not a medical doctor, therapist, lawyer or academic advisor, and all advice offered here is for informational purposes only.) Submit a question for the column →

Being Supportive and Getting Support: Suicide Prevention for Grad Students

“It will never get any better,” or “I can’t take it anymore”–sometimes phrases like these appear as posts on social media or comments in passing. Other times it’s behaviors such as being increasingly anxious, withdrawing from others, increasing drug/alcohol use, or expressing thoughts about wanting to die or feeling like a burden.

Combined together, these are signs that your peer, colleague, or loved one is experiencing intense emotional distress and could be at-risk for suicide. These verbal and behavioral cues are often a person’s invitation for support, and it is our job as a community to recognize these cues and get help.

It is estimated that 11% of college students seriously consider suicide annually, rendering suicide the second leading cause of death among college students nationally. And graduate students are at greater risk than undergraduates.

The good news? The vast majority of suicides are preventable and most people recover from suicidal thoughts.

If you notice the signs that a person might be in emotional distress, follow these steps:

Show you care. Express your concern for the person’s well-being. Say something like, “You mean a lot to me, and I want to help,” or “You really matter. I’d like to support you.”

Ask directly about suicide. Say something like, “Sometimes when people have lost interest in their work, are feeling hopeless, and are withdrawing from others, they’re thinking about suicide. Are you thinking about suicide?” Asking about suicide will not put the idea in someone’s head. It is perhaps the most critical step in suicide prevention.

Get support. If it is a UW student you are concerned about, call SafeCampus at 206.685.7233 (SAFE). If you are concerned about a non-UW student, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255 (TALK). This will route you to your local crisis center where the person in distress can receive a suicide risk assessment and will be connected to appropriate community resources. Encourage the person to call with you, but you can also call without him/her to seek expert advice on next steps. Please save both of these numbers in your cell phone! You never know when you might need them.

Restrict access to lethal means. Help to ensure that the person in distress does not have access to means that can be used in a suicide attempt, such as a firearm or large quantities of prescription medication.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, there is help available!

You can call SafeCampus or head over to the Counseling Center or Hall Health. Both have walk-in crisis counselors available during business hours from M-F, and you can also receive ongoing treatment there. Importantly, there is no shame in having these thoughts.

Now Matters Now is a fantastic public resource where people who have experienced suicidal thoughts share their clinically proven coping strategies.

For more information on how UW is working to prevent suicide, please visit:
Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention

This post’s guest author is Lauren Davis, Director of Higher Education and Senior Policy Analyst for Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention (School of Social Work) and an MPA student at the Evans School of Public Affairs.

Peer Mentoring: Connect With Your Community

Core Programs staff enjoyed meeting many of you at the recent Husky Sunrise event on Rainier Vista lawn (700 new and returning graduate students attended!).  A highlight of the event was witnessing graduate students foster community—through formal and informal conversations—with peers from across the disciplines. And it doesn’t have to stop there.

We encourage you to continue seeking out these important connections in order to grow your peer support network.  This network can come from within your program and from across campus and should comprise of peers whom you look up to, gain insight from, and build trust with.

Peer mentors can become a cornerstone to your graduate experience and take many forms:

  • A peer mentor is familiar with departmental culture, faculty, and expectations and provides suggestions that help you acclimate to your program.
  • A peer mentor is someone who shares similar life experiences based on race, gender, sexuality, class, ability and citizenship.
  • A peer mentor offers insight into balancing academic, professional, and interpersonal responsibilities.
  • A peer mentor points you to on and off campus resources.  They can also give you the lowdown on local eateries, hangouts, and events in your area and encourage you to avoid isolation.
  • A peer mentor is a graduate student outside of your department who acts as a neutral sounding board.

Just like your faculty mentoring team, you can always have more than one peer mentor.  Getting and staying connected to others, and seeking guidance and input when you need it, is key to your success in graduate school. To enhance your informal networks, Core Programs is partnering with the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) on a new service called Grads Guiding Grads (G3)–a peer mentoring system available to you on a one-time or longer-term basis.

G3 can be a place to bring questions you do not feel safe talking about within your own department, or can be a gateway to finding other students or organizations across campus where like-minded students are building support and community with one another.

Stay tuned for the next recruitment of new peer mentors coming this fall!