New advocate position addresses sexual misconduct

Janet Boller guides students who file reports through the Title IX process

Archita Aggarwal, Staff Writer

Washington and Lee University created a new sexual misconduct advocate position to provide trauma-centered support for students.
Janet Boller, a licensed clinical psychologist who works in University Counseling, adopted the role in September 2022.
“The advocate is there to support and believe a complainant who comes forward, rather than having to be impartial,” Boller said.
The new role enables Boller to guide and emotionally support a student, which the Title IX coordinator, Lauren Kozak, cannot legally do.
When a complainant files a report, their initial meeting with Kozak focuses on measures that can be taken, including the option of filing a formal complaint.
“The process can be difficult and hard,” Kozak said, referring to the distress that comes with filing a formal complaint.
The Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Student Engagement Tamara Futrell believes Boller is a valuable resource who can address any concerns that students have while they navigate reporting misconduct.
“Hopefully we won’t need her because [sexual misconducts] won’t arise but in the case that we do, we have her,” Futrell said. “Lauren Kozak and Janet Boller are a dynamic duo in terms of the skill base and knowledge that they have.”
Boller’s new role formed as the university felt that a more nuanced position might encourage reporting and help students deal with traumatic experiences.
Previously, students have declined to report an incident and have withdrawn complaints. This hesitation arises from different sources. While some fear the repercussions of the respondent knowing their identity, others feel the process is emotionally challenging and time consuming.
Final decisions of a formal sexual misconduct complaint can take up to two months and aren’t necessarily in favor of the victim.
“There is no guarantee that the result in the end will be what someone wants,” Kozak said. “At the end, [the Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Board] is having to determine if there is enough evidence to reach the stage of proof.”
With fewer people willing to report incidents, Kozak not only wants to build more supportive measures, but also spread awareness about the distinction between filing a formal complaint and reporting a misconduct.
“A report does not automatically mean proceeding with a formal process. People can report and remain confidential and receive resources,” Kozak said.
While most faculty and staff on campus are mandatory reporters of misconduct, the university counseling center and the sexual misconduct advocate are confidential resources available to students.
However, exceptions to the confidentiality agreement include intention of harm to another person.
“We are by law and ethically allowed to share that information,” Boller said. “Not in a widespread way but to share it with the appropriate people.”
While the university is providing an increasing number of resources that respond to incidents of sexual misconduct, students are working to prevent such happenings from occurring.
Student organizations such as the Gender Action Group (GAG) are committed to attaining this goal. Although GAG mainly focuses on educating the community on issues of gender equity, it also partners with other student groups, such as the Sexual Health Awareness Group, to promote sex education and healthy relationships.
“Sexual education can be seen as a form of prevention for sexual violence,” said Payson Richardson, ‘23, president of GAG.
Futrell hopes to make students aware of all the initiatives focused on reducing sexual misconduct by adding Boller’s new role to the university’s inclusion and engagement website and helping spread the word through student leaders.
“[Increasing resource awareness] should be a multi-part approach,” Futrell said. “It should not be all on Dr. Boller or the counseling center or the Title IX office.”