Respect Officer - Podcast interview (July 2020)

Podcast interview (July 2020) regarding the role of the Respect Officer – including who can contact a Respect Officer, and what will happen if you make contact:

  • Transcript of interview

    Transcript of interviewer (Peter Fitzsimons, Notre Dame Study Centre) chatting with Georgina Ledvinka, National Director Student Standards and Integrity, regarding the role of Respect Officer at Notre Dame (July 2020)

    Interviewer: I’m with Georgina from the Vice Chancellery this morning. Good morning, Georgina, and welcome.

    Georgina: Hi Peter, how are you?

    Interviewer: Well, thank you, and thanks for joining us this morning. Georgina’s going to tell us about the role of Respect Officer at Notre Dame. Georgina, could you tell us what the Respect Officer role is at the University?

    Georgina: Sure. At Notre Dame, we have an initiative called ‘Respect@ND.’ It is the University’s commitment to raising awareness and helping to reduce & prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment. Our Respect Officers are part of this initiative. Respect Officers have been specially trained and are there to support anyone who has experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, or family and domestic violence.

    Interviewer: Thanks, Georgina. So can anyone contact a Respect Officer?

    Georgina:Yes. We are strongly committed to supporting our students to flourish and thrive at Notre Dame. So if you have experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment or family and domestic violence and you would like to talk to someone, please contact the Respect Officer. Sometimes students will get in contact because they’ve been out on the weekend and something has happened to them, or they might have experienced something untoward on public transport, or they’ve had a bad experience online, or it might be to do with a family situation that’s happening now or in the past. Basically, there are no limits on who can contact a Respect Officer – if you think you might need help, please just reach out and the Respect Officer will be there for you.

    Interviewer: Right, thanks Georgina – so not only just on campus but in other aspects of students’ live as well?

    Georgina: Absolutely – on campus, off campus, now or in the past.

    Interviewer: Thank you. Now I’m sure people are concerned about privacy or what actually will happen, so what’s the normal process – what happens if a student contacts a Respect Officer?

    Georgina: The first to know is that if you do contact a Respect Officer, they’re going to respond with empathy and understanding and they’re going to believe you – and they’re not going to judge you, they’re just going to listen. They will provide you with information about supports that are available within the University and externally, and if needed, the Respect Officer will help to coordinate academic support for you, so that you can continue to engage with your studies. One of the things about speaking to a Respect Officer is that you don’t have to tell your story over and over again, to different lecturers and tutors. The Respect Officer, if you want them to, can contact your lecturers and tutors on your behalf, to request an extension for assignments if that’s what’s needed in your situation.

    It’s important to know that if you contact a Respect Officer, they will keep your information confidential and you’re in control of the process. So they’ll talk through various options with you, but you’re the one making the decisions.

    For example, the Respect Officer can put you in touch with the University’s counselling service which is free for students and confidential, they can put you in touch with Chaplaincy, or they can refer you to Access & Inclusion in case you need a learning access plan. The Respect Officer can also give you information about formal reporting options, if that’s something you would like to consider. It’s good to know that the University has a lot of experience in this area – each student’s situation is different, and we always respond confidentially and sensitively.

    Interviewer: The University has lots of experience but unfortunately as people are impacted by any of these issues, perhaps individuals don’t have a lot of experience. What if people aren’t sure?

    Georgina: That’s perfectly fine, and if you have experienced family & domestic violence, or if you’ve experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment, sometimes it can be really hard to process what’s happened to you. The University website is a really great place to start, as there’s lots of information there. You can see definitions and examples of what sexual misconduct might look like, examples of what family and domestic violence can look like, and the kinds of untoward experiences that people can have online. I think the important thing to know is that you are always welcome to contact a Respect Officer. You will be greeted warmly, you’ll be given care and support, and even if you just want to talk through a situation and don’t want it to go any further, that’s absolutely fine. As I mentioned earlier, you’re always in control of the process.

    Interviewer: You mentioned the website as a good place to start. Is there anywhere else that students could find more information?

    Georgina: When you are on campus, you’ll see posters around about Respect@ND and how to contact a Respect Officer. They’re in every bathroom on campus and you’ll also spot them on noticeboards.

    As I mentioned, the University website is a good place to go. If you go to the main student page and scroll down there’s a ‘Health and Wellbeing’ box, and within that box there are separate links for information on sexual assault and sexual harassment, family & domestic violence, and online safety and abuse. There is also information about how to contact a Respect Officer, which you can do by phone, by email, or in person.

    Interviewer: Lots of good information – thank you, Georgina. I’m sure this is information for some of us that we may not come back to check until it’s needed, however, I think it’s very important people know this service is available and this support is available for students. Would you have one last take-home message regarding the Respect Officers at Notre Dame?

    Georgina: I think the take-home message is that Notre Dame really is fully committed to supporting students who have experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment or family & domestic violence, whether that’s happened to you on campus or off campus, whether it’s recent or in the past. If you contact a Respect Officer, they’re going to respond with kindness and with empathy, and they’re going to arrange a coordinated, bespoke response for you, so you can continue to engage with your studies.