Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Holland KJ, Cipriano AE, Huit TZ. “A victim/survivor needs agency”: Sexual assault survivors’ perceptions of university mandatory reporting policies. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy. 2020;1-21.


Copyright © 2020 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues; published by Wiley, Inc. Used by permission.


In institutions of higher education, mandatory reporting policies require certain employees to report students’ sexual assault disclosures to university officials, even if the student does not want to report. It is commonly assumed that these policies will benefit survivors, but there is a paucity of research to substantiate this assumption. The current study examined college sexual assault survivors’ perceptions of mandatory reporting policies, including three specific policy approaches (Universal, Selective, Student-Directed). Interviews were conducted with 40 college sexual assault survivors and thematic analysis was used to analyze these data. Results found that the mandatory reporting policy approaches that survivors prefer, which limit the number of mandatory reporters and offer more autonomy and flexibility, do not align with the policy approaches most frequently implemented within institutions of higher education (i.e., Universal). Survivors anticipated more harms resulting from mandatory reporting than benefits (e.g., pushing survivors into disclosures before they are ready, increasing stress and anxiety, discouraging help-seeking from trusted sources of support on campus). Survivors lacked substantive knowledge of their university’s mandatory reporting policy. Findings suggest that policy makers at institutional, state, and federal levels should consider survivors’ perspectives when crafting such policies and institutions should increase educational efforts about mandatory reporting.