Students reporting gender-based violence and other crimes can now utilize specially designed trauma-informed interview rooms during the reporting process.
The Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access (IOA), which investigates violations of the University’s nondiscrimination and sexual harassment policies now has two rooms designed to create a more comfortable environment for those reporting incidents of sexual misconduct.
The rooms were created in partnership with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center (SAPEC).
“Regardless of what a person’s role is in our investigation process, it’s always going to be really stressful,” said Kate Burns, IOA training coordinator and Title IX investigator. “It’s tough to come in here, and I think this space is going to make it a little bit easier for folks to come in and talk about that.”
Every aspect of the room was added with intention, according to SAPEC Director Jen Brockman. The room features a “relaxation” color scheme, dim lighting, high-grade industrial soundproofing, noise machine and a weighted blanket, among other aspects.
Additionally, the rooms have specially designed chairs that allow those in the rooms to “use their natural coping skills” through rocking and swiveling, according to Brockman. The seats have specific dimensions to allow someone to sit in whatever position is most comforting.
“There’s a lot of research out there, whether it’s environmental psychology or best practices with interior design, so there’s a lot of things out there that you can look to about paint colors and chairs specifically,” Brockman said. “Everything that is in this space is intentional.”
IOA and SAPEC were able to create the two rooms through funding from Student Senate. Senate previously allocated $6,000 to create a similar interview room at the University’s Public Safety Office, and remaining funds went toward the rooms within IOA, according to Brockman and Student Body President Noah Ries.
“Hopefully no student will have to go into the reporting room because hopefully they won’t have to report any crime,” Ries said. “But, the reality is that that’s not the case, and so because of that we want to make sure if something happened to you, we want to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible when you’re telling your story or you’re describing the incident.”
Though the original funds were allocated during the spring 2018 semester by then-Student Body President Mady Womack, Ries said the current administration is taking steps to create additional resources for survivors of sexual violence.
Ries said a fourth room is being constructed at the Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center, a local center accessible to the entire Lawrence community.
“We knew it worked especially for survivors of sexual assault, and so we wanted to expand that as a resource,” Ries said. “Because they said such a high percentage of their people who use their service are KU students, we felt like it was still necessary to provide funding for this.”
Senate and SAPEC are also working to create an anonymous online forum as a resource for survivors of sexual assault. The forum is similar to Project Callisto, which Senate passed in the spring 2018 but later reconsidered due to cost.
Ries said that he hopes the addition of the rooms “sends a message” about the University and Senate’s values, and Brockman said they should be a “tangible showing” of their priorities.
“Our hope is that this makes the investigation process more efficient, more student-centered and just creates an overall better experience for both students and staff members,” Brockman said.