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How to Handle a Disclosure From a Professor

By Albie Nicol

 

I was sitting in my 9AM humanities class, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, adjusting my sweater and taking a simple moment before the class began. Our professor passed out some graded assignments, talking about life advice and trying to instill wisdom in each of us, when she said something along the lines of: “Oh, I didn’t tell you that story? Well, yeah- my high school teacher raped me.” She continued this story with graphic detail, going into every aspect of the assault - no trigger warning, no asking if we were okay with this- disclosing her whole assault to us.


There were 60 students in that room. I knew at least 2 of them were survivors, and with ⅕ women being sexually assaulted at college, I assumed there were more. But how many of us were reliving our assault in our heads? I know I was.

 

A professor can be any list of things to a student: a mentor, a nightmare, a guidebook, a resource- but a professor should never be in a place where they disclose their sexual assault to a full classroom. Especially when it’s not relevant to the material being covered in class, and especially not without a trigger warning.

 

So, your professor has disclosed about their sexual assault to you or a class: what can you do now?

 

I’m here to let you know that you have options. Thankfully, I have a lot of friends who work with official school offices and knew where to direct me, so I’m here to pass on this important information to you.

 

First, let’s take stock of your emotions, so we can determine the kind of support you would benefit from. Are you angry? Maybe now is a good time to sneak to a room with pillows and scream into them, or punch ‘em. Are you sad? Reach out to a friend who you can trust. Journal. Take a breath. Contact your therapist, on-campus, in-area mental-health, or sexual assault resources for professional help.

 

 

Now, let’s talk about resources.


Off Campus, there are a multitude of resources. Specific to location resources are a simple google search away, but some national resources we love include: RAINN,  


Bias reports can be filed anonymously as most institutions. So what is a bias report? A bias report is a form to report any physically or verbally harmful act that is motivated by (or appears to be motivated by, in whole or in part) any of the following factors: race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. It may seem like this isn’t the right form to fill out, but it is! The purpose of a bias report is to monitor the occurrence of hate/bias incidents both on and off campus. The identity of the victim/target will be kept confidential to the maximum extent possible under applicable state and federal law. Submitting this form may or may not result in criminal or university action, depending on the type of incident and the victim’s willingness to take further action.


If you can’t find a bias report section anywhere through your school website, there’s ways to talk to people in charge about it. Not sure where to go? I would start with alerting the head of whatever department the professor is from. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so, reach out to the Office of Compliance and Equity Management, the Office of Diversity, or the Student Health Center to gain an ally in the process.


We are allowed to request safety from mental turmoil and reliving our trauma in the classroom. Professors should not be disclosing to students who are just trying to get by and pass the class. You have rights. You can exercise them. You are not alone.

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