This is Rebecca Gibson, the Report & Response Coordinator at UNC. She works in the Equal Opportunity Compliance Office, where she provides support and resources for students who have experienced sexual or interpersonal violence, stalking, and other forms of discrimination and harassment. She is your go-to person in case you are in need of the services she provides. I chatted with Rebecca to get a better idea of who she is and what she does.
Kelli Raker (KR): Tell me about your background. What led you to this position?
Rebecca Gibson (RG): I’m a social worker by training and previously worked at the Durham Crisis Response Center managing the sexual assault program. I’ve consistently been drawn to this field because of the greater social influences and the resiliency that survivors exhibit even after great trauma has happened to them. I have always aspired to work in higher education. When this opportunity became available at UNC-Chapel Hill to do the work that I’m passionate about, it was just too good to pass up.
KR: What happens in your first meeting with a student who has experienced violence?
RG: In our first meeting, I will explain my role in the process and available resources. I thank them for contacting me and try to assess any immediate safety concerns or medical needs. We’ll discuss community and campus-based confidential resources, interim protective measures, and reporting options, including speaking to law enforcement and making a formal report to the University.
I will explain that I am a private resource, which means that I will share information only as needed with the Title IX compliance coordinator, relevant staff in the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC), and other parties on campus who have a need to know depending on the conduct and where it happened. I will discuss immediate safety concerns and the option to go to the hospital to receive medical care. If the student discloses or alludes to some form of sexual violence, I will explain the option to receive a sexual assault forensic exam at UNC Hospitals or Campus Health Services and talk a bit about the role of the community advocate in providing hospital accompaniment if they choose to receive the exam. I will also provide information about confidential resources such as Cassidy Johnson, gender violence services coordinator, in the event the student would like to talk in a confidential space before talking with me.
It’s truly up to the student in this meeting to decide how much he or she wants to tell me about the violence itself. There are no obligations to provide details. That being said, my ability to help address safety concerns or discuss protective measures will be limited if the student doesn’t want to tell me anything. We’ll talk together about any concerns with academics or housing and if there is a possibility the aggressor will contact the student in the near future.
KR: What about when you meet with someone who may have harmed, harassed, or discriminated against another person?
RG: My role at Carolina is a neutral one. I’m a point of contact for those involved to answer questions, clarify steps, and connect to resources. In meeting with the individual who is responding to allegations of misconduct, I will provide appropriate resources and support just as I would make referrals and connections for a student who reported experiencing these types of conduct. I will explain what they can expect throughout the University’s investigation process, discuss next steps, and address questions they may have. There are times I’m simply not able to answer a question due to student privacy rights, relevant laws, or safety concerns. If there are questions or concerns either party has that I’m not able to answer or address, my job is to find the person who can provide the information.
KR: Why should someone come to talk to you?
RG: I can facilitate interim protective measures such as academic accommodations or changes to housing, give perspective on reporting options, and connect individuals to resources both at the University and in the community. Ew Quimbaya-Winship also provides this assistance.
For someone who wants the University to pursue a formal investigation of an alleged policy violation, I’m the first point of contact to get that process moving.
For someone who isn’t sure about how they want to proceed, I’m able to talk through what the reporting process would look like and connect that person to others who can support them regardless of the decision to report. The University will make every effort to respect the individual’s decision about how to proceed.
KR: What do you wish all students knew about your office?
RG: I want students to know that my office is a welcoming space and resource for the entire Carolina community. My team is made up of smart, compassionate people who are working hard to make this campus safe and equitable.
I also want folks to know that in addition to addressing sexual violence, my office is also the place to go if you’re experiencing harassment or discrimination based on any protected status: age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and veteran status.
KR: Well, there you have it. Thanks, Rebecca! Always remember there are resources on campus to help you if you face any form of discrimination or harassment!
Kelli Raker is the Coordinator for Violence Prevention Programs at UNC Student Wellness. Kelli has a Master of Arts degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs from The Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from The College of William and Mary in Women’s Studies. Kelli believes we can prevent sexual violence, interpersonal violence, stalking, harassment, and discrimination by changing systems of oppression, empowering bystanders, supporting survivors, and holding individuals accountable for their problematic behavior.