supporting our campus community

Montana State University

24-Hour Confidential Support Line (406) 994-7069

No one likes to talk about violence on campus. But know that at Montana State University, there’s help…. and there’s hope.

The VOICE Center emphasizes empowerment of the survivor and peer-based services provided by staff and trained advocates. VOICE Center Advocates can talk to you, either on the phone or in person, about your relationship and concerns you may have; reporting options; temporary orders of protection; support groups; counseling, and medical resources available to you. They can also accompany or assist survivors in accessing medical, legal, or other services. Services are free & confidential. You may choose to be anonymous if you wish.

Mission Statement
Volunteering
Resources
Confidentiality Policy
Sexual Assault
Sexual Assault Services at MSU
Relationship Violence
Stalking

Mission Statement

The Montana State University VOICE Center is committed to the belief that all people have the right to live free from violence and the fear of violence. We recognize that sexual and relationship violence are not isolated incidents, but rather are the expression of a pervasive attitude in which violence and control are acted out in a gendered and sexual manner. We believe that interpersonal violence can best be addressed through social action, education, and advocacy. The VOICE Center was formed to:

  • Provide a safe, highly confidential place on campus for survivors of interpersonal violence, offering support, advocacy, and resources.
  • Break the silence and raise consciousness surrounding interpersonal violence. Silence adds to a survivor's shame and delays recovering and healing.
  • Help restore personal power and dignity to survivors of interpersonal violence by providing choices and decision-making opportunities.
  • Identify and reduce the existence of interpersonal violence at Montana State University, and provide education and information to all members of the Montana State University community on issues of sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking, and the root causes of violence.
  • Assist the MSU community in creating a culture of respect that doesn’t tolerate violence and discrimination of any kind.
  • Ensure effective communication between the VOICE Center and other people who are concerned about interpersonal violence, oppression, and discrimination.

Giving Power Back – the VOICE Center’s Empowerment-Based Approach

VOICE Center advocates help restore personal power and dignity to survivors of interpersonal violence by providing choices and decision-making opportunities. We listen, believe, and support every survivor.  We also help survivors and their loved ones to become aware of and understand all of the options available to them. At the VOICE Center, we firmly believe that survivors of interpersonal violence know what is best for them, and we respect their decisions.  We are committed to working with survivors to provide support throughout their healing process.  

Back to the Top

Volunteer Options

The VOICE Center is a peer-based program that provides education and advocacy on issues of sexual and domestic violence in the MSU community. We have two types of volunteers: Advocates and Educators. Following is a description of each type of position. 

Peer Advocates

What is a Peer Advocate? 
Victim Advocates are student volunteers who are trained to provide information, crisis intervention and support services to anyone affected by sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking. Services that Peer Advocates provide include: answering the crisis line; meeting with survivors one on one; accompanying survivors to help with reporting, accessing medical, legal, and/or other services; talking with friends and family members of survivors about how to best support their loved one.

What will the Peer Advocate Training involve? 
The 40-hour training session will include education in the following areas:

  • Theory on gendered and interpersonal violence
  • Crisis counseling skills
  • Peer Counseling skills
  • Relationship Violence/Dating Violence/Domestic Violence
  • Sexual Assault/Date Rape/Acquaintance Rape
  • Advocacy Skills
  • Law Enforcement & Medical Concerns for Survivors
  • Intersectionality and oppression
  • SafeZone Training
  • QPR Suicide Intervention Training

How would I benefit from being a Peer Advocate?

  • Actively work with concerned individuals making positive change on the MSU campus.
  • Obtain practical experience in crisis intervention and advocacy on issues of sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking.
  • Gain knowledge on issues of sexual violence, gendered violence, and oppression.
  • Opportunity for personal development and growth.
  • Earn college credit.
  • Earn letters of recommendation.

Requirements to become a Peer Advocate with the VOICE Center:

  • Attend a 5-hour Violence Prevention Workshop
  • Complete the application process (which includes a written application and an interview).
  • Attend 40-hour training session.
  • Commit to staffing one, 2-hour shift per week.
  • Commit to working with the VOICE program for a minimum of one year.
  • Have a non-judgmental and non-victim blaming approach to sexual and relationship violence.

Peer Educators

The VOICE Center’s Peer Educator program is intended to create a team of educators to co-facilitate educational presentations to student peers, student organizations, and Bobcat Athletic teams. Peer educators will be required to attend a 1 hour meeting each month to receive updates and continued education. Applicants must have successfully completed the Violence Prevention Workshop and the Peer Advocate Training in order to be considered for this volunteer position. Current volunteers have reported the following positive experiences as a result of their involvement with the Peer Educator Program: 

  • Stronger presentation and public speaking skills
  • Deeper understanding of primary prevention
  • Increased self confidence
  • Greater networking on campus
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Contributing to a safer campus environment

How Would I Benefit From Being a Peer Educator?
Peer Educators work actively with concerned individuals to make positive change on the MSU-Bozeman campus.

  • Gain volunteer experience
  • Gain knowledge on issues of sexual and domestic violence
  • Practice group facilitation skills
  • Earn letters of recommendation

Requirements to become a Peer Educator with the VOICE Program:

  • Attend VOICE Center Advocate Training
  • Attend speciailized training sessions for educators
  • Posses a willingness and desire to facilitate open discussion on sexual and domestic violence
  • One year commitment to the program
  • Posses a non-judgmental and non-victim blaming approach to sexual and domestic violence
NOTE: Students may be involved with Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) without becoming a VOICE Center Peer Educator (and thus not going through training or making a one year commitment). To hear more about this possibility, call the VOICE Center office at 994-5682.

Back to the Top

On Campus Resources

The VOICE Center, 24-Hour Confidential Support Line 994-7069
Provides free and confidential services and information for all people impacted by sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking, including friends and family of survivors. Advocates are available 24-hours a day to provide information and discuss different options and resources that may be available to you.  Advocates can assist with reporting, referrals, academic concerns, protective orders, and medical advocacy.  You may choose to be anonymous in all of your contacts with the VOICE Center.

Advocates are available 24-hours a day through our 24-Hour Confidential Support Line (406) 994-7069 - call or text - (if you call the Support Line after-hours, you will have the option to press “1” to be immediately connected with an advocate, or to leave us a confidential voicemail).

VOICE Center Walk-In hours are from 8:00am-5:00pm during the regular academic semester.   Other appointments can be made as needed. 

The VOICE Center is located in 370 Strand Union Building (SUB) on the third floor above Leigh Lounge and Avogadros Number. 

The VOICE Center provides information, advocacy, and support for friends, partners, and family members of survivors.  We welcome all people regardless of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, ability, and/or past experience.

 voice@montana.edu or msuvoice@gmail.com

General Office line, 994-7662
VOICE Center Director, Alanna Sherstad,  994-7142
Outreach/Education Coordinator, 994-5682

MSU Police - 994-2121
Responds to crimes that occur on MSU property. This is a 24-hour number.

Office of Institutional Equity (Title IX Coordinator) - 994-5326

The MSU Office of Institutional Equity can assist individuals who have been impacted by sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, or sexual violence by connecting victims to resources and leading investigations into reports of sexual misconduct at Montana State University.  Click here  to report an incident of sexual violence to the MSU Office of Institutional Equity.

MSU Student Health Service - 994-2311
Provides free medical services for eligible MSU students. Student Health Service is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

MSU Counseling & Psychological Services - 994-4531
Provides free counseling for eligible MSU students. Open Monday through Friday 8-5 (Summer hours limited).

MSU Dean of Students - 994-2826

Can assist students with academic and financial aid issues that occur as the result of an incident of sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence. The Dean of Students adjudicates violations of the Student Conduct Code. VOICE Center advocates can help you through this process if you are considering this option.

 

To report a crime anonymously on the MSU campus, e-mail the Silent Witness Program: switness@montana.edu. 

If you have questions, a VOICE Advocate can answer questions about this option.

Back to the Top

Off Campus Resources

Bozeman Police - 911 or 582-2000 
Responds to crimes that occur in Bozeman.

Gallatin County Sheriff - 911 or 582-2100 
Responds to crimes that occur in Gallatin County but outside Bozeman city limits.

Help Center and Sexual Assault Counseling Center - 586-3333 (24-Hour Line)
The Help Center provides a 24-hour confidential community crisis line, to talk about sexual assault, suicide, concerns about a friend, and more.  Housed in the Help Center, the Sexual Assault Counseling Center provides 24-hour crisis counseling, outreach, legal, personal, medical advocacy and short/long term trauma recovery counseling for survivors of sexual assault and their significant others. Services are free and confidential.

HAVEN - 586-4111  (24-hour Line) 
HAVEN provides a variety of services, including a 24-hour crisis line and emergency shelter. Professional staff and trained volunteers assist victims of domestic violence in meeting immediate and long-term needs, as well as provide information, referrals, crisis intervention, and support. Services are free and confidential.

HAVEN’s Legal Advocacy Office - 582-2038 
The Legal Advocate offers services at no cost to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The assistance can include applications for orders of protection and other civil court procedures.

Gallatin County Victim Assistance Program - 582-2075 or 582-2076
The Victim Assistance Program assists victims of violent crime with the criminal justice process in the City of Bozeman and Gallatin County. Services include crisis counseling, criminal justice support and advocacy, assistance with filing for crime victim compensation, and information and referral to community services.

Back to the Top

Anonymity &Confidentiality at the VOICE Center

Your communications with the VOICE Center are protected by state law and are confidential.  No one outside of the VOICE Center will have access to information about your communications with the VOICE Center without your consent, except as described in "Exceptions to Confidentiality.”   Law enforcement, school administration or faculty, Student Health Service staff not affiliated with the VOICE Center, or family members will not be contacted by the VOICE Center unless you request us to do so. In addition, you have the option of remaining anonymous in your interactions with the VOICE Center if you prefer.

Are There Exceptions to Confidentiality? 

Exceptions to confidentiality include legally required reports in cases of child or elder abuse and threats of imminent harm to self or others, in circumstances detailed in Montana's child/elder abuse reporting laws, mental health law, and duty to warn law. Because the details of these statutes are complex, advocates and staff are required to discuss such client disclosures immediately with VOICE Center supervisors. If specific legal conditions are found to have been met, notification of authorities is mandated by state law.

An additional exception to confidentiality is if the VOICE Center receives a subpoena or court order to disclose confidential information. In such circumstances, the University has stated its commitment to protect VOICE Center records and is prepared to oppose any subpoenas for which the VOICE Center does not have the client's authorization for release of the information.  Montana law presently offers substantial protection from disclosure of counseling records without the client's consent in instances of sexual assault, even in court cases. However, it is possible that, despite the University's efforts, a court could mandate the release of the records. If all efforts to protect the records fail, the VOICE Center would comply with the order at that point.

What's the Difference Between Anonymity & Confidentiality? 
To be anonymous at the VOICE Center means that you do not give your name to the VOICE Center Advocate with whom you speak, (or you use a pseudonym) and your name will not appear on any records of your interactions with the VOICE Center. Confidentiality means that you inform the Advocate of your name, and all records of your interactions with the VOICE Center will have your name on them. It is possible to switch from anonymous to confidential records; however, it is not possible to switch from being confidential to being anonymous.

Which Option Should I Choose? 
There are many things to consider in making the decision whether to be anonymous or confidential at the VOICE Center. Such considerations may include the potential for you to be involved in court cases, your desire for services other than peer counseling, and any needs for documentation of your interaction with the VOICE Center.

Either option may have potential advantages and disadvantages for you. If you choose to be anonymous, it is unlikely that the records of your interactions with the VOICE Center would be appealed if you were involved in legal proceedings. However, if you need a copy of records for some reason, it is virtually impossible for the VOICE Center to know which of the anonymous records are yours.

If you are anonymous, the services available to you through the VOICE Center are limited to peer advocacy and information. All other services (advocacy within legal and university system, counseling, letters to professors or others) would require that the VOICE Center know your name. However, if you are anonymous at the VOICE Center, you can always decide to give your name later if you wish to receive these other services.

If you choose to give your name, your records will remain strictly confidential, all the VOICE Center services are available to you, and the records of your interactions with the VOICE Center will be retrievable if you ever need a copy for yourself or others for documentation.

An advocate can always assist you in talking through these different options and answering any questions you have so you can make an informed decision about what is best for you.


Back to the Top

Sexual Assault Services at MSU

Students at Montana State University have the right to live and learn in an academic environment that is free from all forms of sexual violence and misconduct. At MSU, we aim to reduce the occurrence of sexual assault on campus by creating a community intolerant of sexual violence. We strive to empower students to disclose sexual assault and to have access to medical, mental health, and advocacy services.

 

MSU’s Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Stalking and Retaliation policy applies to students, staff, faculty, and other academic personnel. 

MSU’s sexual assault and sexual misconduct policies help to facilitate an academic and living environment that is free of sexual violence and harassment while complying with the provisions outlined in the Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.  Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.  For more information on Title IX and MSU’s policies and procedures, visit the Office of Institutional Equity or contact the MSU VOICE Center at 406.994.7069.  

Definitions
What is sexual harassment and sexual assault?

  • Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, including rape, sexual assault, sexual battery and sexual coercion.
  • A violation of a person’s physical & emotional well being.
  • A crime prosecutable under Montana law.
  • An act of power and control.
  • Sexual assault is NOT an expression of love, passion, or sexual desire.
  • Sexual assault is NOT your fault
Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, class, age, size, appearance, or sexual orientation. Alcohol is the most common predatory (date rape) drug, in approximately 90% of cases either the victim or the perpetrator is intoxicated. The assailant is an acquaintance in the majority of reported cases.

 

If you have experienced a sexual assault, you may be faced with many decisions to make about your own physical and emotional well-being as well as filing reports through the University or law enforcement. The following information will provide a good overview, but it may be helpful to speak with an advocate or counselor about your options.

What to Do if it Happens to You

If you have experienced a sexual assault, you may be faced with many decisions to make about your own physical and emotional well-being as well as filing reports through the University or law enforcement.  The following information will provide a good overview, but it may be helpful to speak with a confidential advocate or counselor about all of your options.

If you are unsure of what to do, here are some guidelines that may be helpful.

  • Get to a safe place as soon as possible: your safety after an assault is your number one priority.
  • Try to preserve all physical evidence: Try not to shower, bathe, or brush your teeth. If you can’t immediately contact the police or go the hospital for evidence collection and are unsure about whether or not you want to file a report, save the clothing that you were wearing or any other fabric such as bedding in a brown paper bag. 
  • Seek support for what has happened: Talk with someone you trust to get immediate support, but be advised, some of these individuals such as Resident Advisors or favorite professors may have an obligation to report the incident.  Friends or family members can be great support providers, however, if you are uncomfortable sharing your experience with people close to you, there are other forms of support available to you.  

If you wish to seek confidential support, the MSU VOICE Center and the Help Center of Bozeman are both available 24-hours per day to provide 100% confidential support. Confidential counseling is also available through the MSU VOICE Center, Help Center of Bozeman’s Sexual Assault Counseling Center and MSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services. 

  • Seek medical attention: The Bozeman Deaconess ER has trained nurses who can meet with you, collect evidence through a forensic rape exam, check for injuries, provide emergency contraception, and provide STI preventative medication.
  • Think about reporting options: Under Montana’s FREPP (Forensic Rape Examination Payment         Program) you have the option of having evidence    collected without reporting the crime. The evidence will be held for up to one year, so you have plenty of time to decide if you want to report the crime and press charges.
  • Try to practice self-care: Surviving an unwanted sexual experience is an incredibly traumatic event that can exhaust your emotions, your physical body, and your social interactions. Take some time to do something for yourself that is relaxing and give your body and mind some time to rest and heal.

 You can find more detailed information about your options below:

Counseling & Support Resources: 

If you are dealing with an unwanted sexual experience it may be useful to talk with someone who is knowledgeable about the issues.  People in this situation may feel a wide variety of emotions such as being confused, outraged, frightened, overwhelmed, scared, sad, anxious, and depressed. 

Experiencing violence can create a host of practical and emotional consequences.  While you may want to talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or family member, there are also confidential campus resources available including the MSU Counseling & Psychological services, VOICE Center, and MSU Police Department.  MSU’s Counseling & Psychological Services and MSU VOICE Center provide free and highly confidential counseling to students which can be an extremely important part of the healing process. 

 Many survivors seek out a supervisor, professor, or individual in a position of trust to help provide support.  Be advised: some of these people may have an obligation to report.

 When you seek help from professionals, first ask what level of confidentiality they can provide, who they are required to tell if you were to disclose information regarding an incident.  That way, you can make an informed decision.

 Some things you might discuss:

  • Figuring out what you feel and think about what is going on.
  • Getting information that will help you assess the situation, and figure out what you want to do.
  • Talking about how to manage your academics or work given your situation.
  • Getting help with changing your classes or working with your professors.
  • Talking about making a safety plan, if needed.
  • Getting medical treatment if you have injuries or are worried about your health.
  • Changing where you live to get some space, or safety.
  • Reporting to the police, the MSU Dean of Students, or the Title IX Coordinator if appropriate.

 MSU Counseling & Psychological Services

Confidential & Free Counseling 994-4531

 

MSU VOICE Center

24-Hour Confidential Support Line 994-7069

Information, Support, Advocacy, and Counseling

 

Medical Options:

Especially in the first 72 hours, medical concerns like pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STI) or injuries may be important to address.  Even after 72 hours have passed, treatment is available and may put your mind at ease.  There is a difference between getting treatment from a medical professional and having medical evidence collected for a possible investigation.

 Evidence collection, often referred to as the “rape kit,” is done at the Bozeman Deaconess Emergency Room by a trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.  You can learn more about the forensic rape exam by calling the 24-Hour VOICE Center Support Line at 406-994-7069 or the Bozeman Help Center at 406-586-3333.  Advocates are available to meet you at the hospital to offer additional support and information.  Through Montana’s Forensic Rape Examination Payment Program (FREPP), you can have evidence collected even if you do not know whether or not you want to report the crime to the police.  If you think there is a possibility that you will decide to report the assault to the police, it is best to get the forensic exam done as soon as possible.  The exam itself will be paid for and you have up to a year to decide if you want to report and use the evidence.

If you have injuries related to an assault, and want treatment, but no evidence collection, please go to the doctor.  Keep in mind that if you are under the age of 18 or have significant physical injury, doctors may be required to report the assault to the police.  If you want, you can ask about reporting requirements before receiving treatment.

 If you do not feel you want or need an emergency room visit or evidence collection, but are concerned about pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, you have several options: 

MSU Student Health Services  406-994-2311,

Bridger Care406-587-0681,

or your primary-care physician can provide emergency contraception and/or STI testing and treatment.

Reporting Options

As a member of the MSU community, you have several options regarding reporting the incident to authorities. You can:

  • Pursue Campus Disciplinary Actions                        
  • Pursue Criminal Charges
  • Pursue both University and Criminal Charges                                     
  • Report Incident but Choose not to Pursue Charges
  • Report Anonymously                                    
  • Do None of the Above (you are still entitled to seek support through the MSU VOICE Center, MSU Counseling, or any of the community resources)

At The VOICE Center, we can help all survivors of sexual assault, regardless of their decision to report. If the survivor chooses not to report, they will still be welcome to speak with an advocate, meet with one of our therapists, attend a support group, and access any of our additional resources.

If the survivor chooses to report, our advocates can support them as they report to the University or police, help navigate the process after reporting, explain any paperwork, set up support and safety measures on campus, and accompany the survivor throughout any court proceedings.

The following will provide you with more information about these reporting options:

Pursuing Campus Disciplinary Actions:

If you were assaulted or harassed by a student, faculty, or staff member you can report the incident to the Office of Institutional Equity, 406.994.5326.  This office will work with you to provide accommodations so you can be safe and successful at MSU.  A VOICE Center advocate can accompany you to this meeting.

If you decide you would like to pursue a formal investigation through MSU, Title IX investigators will investigate the report and submit the findings to the Dean of Students.   When allegations of interpersonal violence or misconduct are brought to the Office of Institutional Equity, and a respondent is found to have violated the MSU nondiscrimination or sexual misconduct policy, serious sanctions can be issued to help ensure that such actions are never repeated.  Depending on the findings of the investigation, the Dean of Students may impose sanctions that include but are not limited to, no-contact orders, educational mandates, suspensions or dismissals from the University.

* MSU protects victims of sexual assault by not charging them with alcohol or drug violations of the Student Code of Conduct. 

The MSU Title IX investigation process through the Office of Institutional Equity is independent of the Criminal Justice process.  Victims of interpersonal violence can choose to pursue informal or formal investigations in either system, both systems, or receive assistance with accommodations for safety and success at MSU.  Advocates can help you assess this option as well.  If you would like more information on MSU’s policies and processes, you can contact the Office of Institutional Equity at 406.994.5326 or contact VOICE Center at 406.994.7069.

 Any student or visitor with questions or concerns about sex discrimination or sexual harassment or who believes that they have been the victim of sex discrimination or sexual harassment may contact the Title IX Coordinator for assistance.  

Pursuing Criminal Charges

MSU encourages reporting to the police at the earliest possibility; but even if a victim chooses not to report immediately, a report can be made later.  Reporting an assault is not the same as pressing charges and does not mean you have to go to court.  At the MSU Police Department, you can meet a detective or officer to make a report without immediately triggering a full scale investigation.  You can learn more about the process, meet the people involved, and make an informed decision.  * MSU Police Department protects victims of sexual assault by not charging them with alcohol or drug charges. 

If you make the decision to press charges, an investigation will occur and the City or County Attorney’s Office will review the case and determine (with your input) whether or not to file charges in the case.  Investigations can take several weeks and/or months to complete before a decision may be made about whether or not to file charges.  If charges are filed, a victim-advocate from the Attorney’s Office will keep you notified of the case and assist you through the process.

For more information about reporting a sexual assault to the police, visit MSUPD or contact the MSU VOICE Center at 406.994.7069. 

Report Incident Without Charges

Even if you are unsure whether or not you want to pursue any type of investigation, you can still report the incident to either the University, law enforcement, or both.  The VOICE Center, Office of Institutional Equity, and the University Police are all available to support your safety and well-being at MSU.  Things they may be able to assist you with include:

  • Obtaining a No Contact Order
  • Altering the academic environment
  • Residence changes
  • Providing academic support services
  • Connecting you with counseling or medical services
  • Providing escorts on campus
  • Speaking with your professors
  • Arranging for re-taking or withdrawal from course

Report Anonymously           

You also have the option to file an anonymous report about the crime (or any crime you witnessed) through MSU’s Silent Witness Program by emailing switness@montana.edu. 

 

Back to the Top

Relationship Violence

Types of Abuse

There are many, many different forms of abuse in relationships and not all abuse is physical or blatantly obvious.

  • Emotional Abuse- The abuser may say horrible things to put you down or hurt your feelings. The abuser may ridicule your values or humiliate you in public. The abuser may threaten to self-harm if you consider leaving the relationship. This form of abuse is not always obvious, but it is a serious and extremely damaging aspect of relationship violence.
  • Financial/Economic Abuse- The abuser may restrict your access to bank accounts or take complete control of the finances in the relationship. The abuser may monitor your spending or become angry about your purchases. They abuser may ask you to quit your job or deny access to an education.
  • Verbal Abuse- The abuser may yell at you frequently and say threatening things. The abuser may use their tone to intimidate you or scare you into behaving a certain way.
  • Physical Abuse- The abuser uses physical violence towards you with the intent of injuring or intimidating you. The abuser physically blocks you from moving freely or exiting the situation. Abusers may also hurt pets and children or break household items.
  • Sexual Abuse- The abuser may force you to perform sexual acts without your consent. The abuser may grab or touch you without your consent. The abuser may coerce you into completing sexual acts by threatening to cheat or leave the relationship.

 

Cycle of Violence

Unhealthy behavior often occurs in a cycle. Relationships typically begin in the honeymoon phase, in which everything is comfortable, happy, and seemingly healthy. Sometimes, relationships can progress through a phase called tension building, in which you may feel like you are walking on egg shells, waiting for the next argument or fight. The acute or abusive stage is the abusive incident (verbal or physical fight, threat, or assault). After an abusive incident, the abuser typically begs forgiveness and promises never to abuse again. This shifts the relationship back into the honeymoon phase and the cycle continues. This cycle tends to progress more quickly with time with the honeymoon phase becoming very brief and the abuse becoming more frequent and severe.

(Insert image of Cycle of Violence)

Red Flags

Relationships come in many different forms: healthy, unhealthy, and somewhere in between. It can be difficult to determine where your relationship falls on the spectrum. Here are some red flags that may be indicative of an unhealthy situation.

  • Isolation- Does your partner constantly put down your family and friends? Does your partner become angry when you make time to see your family or friends?
  • Controlling behavior- Does your partner get angry when you make decisions or set goals for yourself? Do you feel that you need to consult your partner before you make any decisions?
  • Jealousy- Does your partner become extremely jealous when you spend your time with other people? Does your partner check your phone, emails, or phone calls or accuse you of cheating?
  • Criticism- Does your partner regularly put you down or make you feel bad about yourself? Does your partner deliberately humiliate you in public?
  • Hypersensitivity- Is your partner easily insulted? Does your partner get irrationally angry over small and seemingly insignificant things?
  • Intimidation- Does your partner use fear or threats to scare you into behaving a certain way? Does your partner threaten to hurt you or themselves?
  • Lack of Accountability- Does your partner take responsibility for their actions? Do they sometimes deny negative actions all together?
  • Use of force or physical violence- Does your partner use physical force or violence towards you? Does your partner physically block you from moving freely or exiting?

If these signs are present in your relationship or in your partner, it is likely that you are in an unhealthy situation. Understand that it takes time to come to terms with this reality and be patient with yourself.

Common Reactions

The first time a person experiences abuse, they may feel:

  • Shock
  • Confusion: “how could this happen to me?” 
  • Disbelief: Excusing the behavior, rationalizing it, accepting the abuser’s promise that this will never happen again 
  • Shame: Keeping the incident a secret, feeling ashamed
  • Outrage

Victims/survivors of repeated abuse in a relationship often experience: 

  • FEAR, TERROR: fear of reprisals if they leave or resist, of death, of pain; terror because of the unpredictable nature of the attacks. 
  • SHAME, GUILT: the abuser attacks the partner’s sense of accomplishment in various roles (being a good partner, parent, student, etc.) leaving the partner to feel they are failures. 
  • EMBARRASSMENT: the partner believes that anyone who discovers the abuse will blame them for causing it or remaining in the relationship. 
  • ALONE, HELPLESS, ISOLATED: talking to friends/family is a difficult decision, especially if the partner does not believe they have the resources necessary to leave the relationship.
  • HELPLESSNESS: sets in when the partner realizes they cannot fight back or stop the violence.
  • AMBIVALENT LOVE/HATE FEELINGS: leave the partner in a state of suspended animation and prevents effective action. Most abusers manipulate their partners with loving words and actions. However, it becomes increasingly difficult to reconcile these good qualities with the violence.
  • TRAPPED: due to the abuser’s effective use of isolation, the partner may have an extremely limited ability to financially support themselves. When children are involved, the burden is multiplied. In addition, the abuser may have greater resources to impact the outcome of any legal procedures like divorce, property settlements, child custody, etc. Partners often have no access to the family wealth. Bank accounts and credit cards are usually in the abuser’s name, and the only money provided is an allowance.
  • LOST: if the partner has been prevented from making major decisions in the relationship, they may have no knowledge about dealing with agencies, landlords or other “official” personnel.
  • BETRAYED: by their partner, by helping services who did not help, by friends or family who may have turned away.
  • CONFUSION: the partner receives mixed messages from the abuser. After an abusive episode, things return to an almost idyllic state. The abuser is generally calm, loving, attentive, supportive, etc.
  • THE BELIEF THAT THE ABUSER CAN AND WILL CHANGE: because the abuser is not always violent, the partner maintains hope that anger management, therapy, religion, etc. will bring about change. Unfortunately, the abuser knows the abuse is effective and has little incentive to stop.

What if I am in an abusive relationship?

Safety Planning

If you suspect that you are in an unhealthy relationship with physical violence or you are concerned that physical violence may develop, it is very important to have a safety plan. A safety plan is a basic framework of your course of action should you decide to leave your partner or if the violence escalates.

Components of a basic safety plan:

  • Be aware of your surroundings- if you are concerned about a violent incident occurring, be sure that you are in a room with a clear and accessible exit. Also be sure that you are not in a kitchen, bathroom, or room that may contain hard surfaces or weapons.
  • Find a safe way out- In physically abusive relationships, it is important for you to identify a safe way for you to get out of the situation. Identify which doors, windows, elevators, or stairwells you can use and practice this route.
  • Make a list- Important numbers such as local police, advocacy centers, domestic violence shelters, family, friends, doctors, and/or employers. Determine a list of places you can go if you decide to leave.
  • Pack a grab-and-go bag- Pack a small bag of important items, documents, valuables, and other necessities such as clothes, toiletries, medications, and cash. Keep the bag hidden in your car or at a friend’s house.
  • Determine code words- the use of code words can be very useful to discreetly ask for help in the presence of the abuser. Get together with trusted friends or family to determine code words or phrases for “call the police” or “I need your help”.
  • Tell your neighbors- if you are comfortable, ask your neighbors to call the police if they hear a serious disturbance.
  • Use your best judgement- You know your partner, their behavior, and their tendencies. If you believe that you are in a dangerous or life threatening situation, either call 911 if you have the opportunity and can do so safely, or give the abuser what they want to calm them down. Your safety is your priority.
  • Take care of YOU! - call 911 if you need help. There are also many advocacy centers that can provide support, connect you to safe housing, and help you obtain an order of protection.

If you are currently an MSU student, staff, or faculty member, you may consider working through the (Safety Planning at MSU Guide) to devise a safety plan specifically for campus life.

Regardless of the type, intensity, or frequency of abuse, a safety plan is always important. The actions of abusive partners can be unpredictable. It is important to hope for the best but prepare for anything less.

Orders of Protection

An Order of Protection (commonly known as a Restraining Order) is a document signed by a judge that prohibits the Respondent (abuser) from contacting the Petitioner (survivor) in any way including personal contact, other forms of contact (letter, phone call, text, email, social media, etc.), or via third party. The order also states that the Respondent must stay a specific distance away from the Petitioner, the Petitioner’s home, and the Petitioner’s place of work. The Petitioner may also request that children or other family members be included in the order; the request can be granted or denied at the judge’s discretion.

When filing for an Order of Protection, you will be asked to include your personal information, personal information about the abuser, and a written narrative of the abuse. The Order of Protection cannot be submitted without this information. When the petition for an Order of Protection is completed, the paperwork will be submitted to a judge to make a decision to grant or deny the order. This process may take one day to one week to complete. When the judge makes a decision, you will be notified.

If the order is granted, you will obtain a Temporary Order of Protection. Please note that the Temporary Order of Protection will not go into effect until the Respondent is served the order by Law Enforcement Officers. These orders typically last for 20 days. When the Temporary Order of Protection is granted, the judge will also set a court date at which time you can petition for a Permanent Order of Protection.

In order to petition for a Permanent Order of Protection, you will need to be present during the hearing to come before the judge. You will have the opportunity to testify and make recommendations for the length of the order. The Respondent has the right to attend the hearing and testify as well. After hearing both testimonies, the judge will make the determination to grant or deny the Permanent Order of Protection.

This process may seem very daunting, but having support can simplify the process. You are encouraged to access the help of HAVEN’s Legal Advocates, MSU VOICE Center Advocates, as well as supportive friends and family members who can help you file the Order of Protection, provide support through the hearing process, and help you develop a safety plan in the interim.

To begin the process of filing for an Order of Protection, please contact the HAVEN Legal Advocate at (406)582-2038 or the MSU VOICE Center at (406)994-7069.

Counseling & Support

If you are dealing with a potentially abusive relationship it may be useful to talk with someone who is knowledgeable about the issues.  People in this situation may feel a wide variety of emotions such as being confused, outraged, frightened, overwhelmed, scared, sad, anxious, and depressed. 

 Experiencing violence can create a host of practical and emotional consequences.  While you may want to talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or family member, there are also confidential campus resources available including:

  • MSU Counseling & Psychological services
  • MSU VOICE Center
  • MSU Police Department 

MSU’s Counseling & Psychological Services and MSU VOICE Center provide free and highly confidential counseling to students which can be an extremely important part of the healing process. 

Many survivors seek out a supervisor, professor, or individual in a position of trust to help provide support.  Be advised: some of these people may have an obligation to report to MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity* (this only means that a Title IX Coordinator would be in touch with you to discuss ways MSU can support you and help keep you safe while also discussing your options for moving forward with a more formal complaint and investigation which could potentially result in campus disciplinary actions for the abuser.)

 When you seek help from professionals, first ask what level of confidentiality they can provide, who they are required to tell if you were to disclose information regarding an incident.  That way, you can make an informed decision.

 Some things you might discuss:

  • Figuring out what you feel and think about what is going on.
  • Getting information that will help you assess the situation, and figure out what you want to do.
  • Talking about how to manage your academics or work given your situation.
  • Getting help with changing your classes or working with your professors.
  • Talking about making a safety plan, if needed.
  • Getting medical treatment if you have injuries or are worried about your health.
  • Changing where you live to get some space, or safety.
  • Reporting to the police, the MSU Dean of Students, or the Title IX Coordinator if appropriate.

MSU Counseling & Psychological Services

Confidential & Free Counseling 994-4531

MSU VOICE Center

24-Hour Confidential Support Line 994-7069

Information, Support, Advocacy, and Counseling

 

There are also several great resources off-campus that can provide information, support, and free counseling:

HAVEN

Domestic Violence Safehouse, Legal Advocacy, Support

24-Hour Crisis Line 406.586.4111  

 

Help Center/Sexual Assault Counseling Center

24-Hour Crisis Line 406.586.3333

Information, Support, Advocacy, and Counseling

 

Reporting Options for Relationship Violence

As a member of the MSU community, you have several options regarding reporting the incident to authorities. You can:

  • Pursue Campus Disciplinary Actions                        
  • Pursue Criminal Charges
  • Pursue both University and Criminal Charges                                     
  • Report Incident but Choose not to Pursue Charges
  • Report Anonymously                                    
  • Do None of the Above (you are still entitled to seek support through the MSU VOICE Center, MSU Counseling, or any of the community resources)

At The VOICE Center, we can help all survivors of relationship violence, regardless of their decision to report. If the survivor chooses not to report, they will still be welcome to speak with an advocate, meet with one of our therapists, attend a support group, and access any of our additional resources.

If the survivor chooses to report, our advocates can support them as they report to the University or police, help navigate the process after reporting, explain any paperwork, set up support and safety measures on campus, and accompany the survivor throughout any court proceedings.

The following will provide you with more information about these reporting options:

Pursuing Campus Disciplinary Actions:

If you were assaulted or harassed by a student, faculty, or staff member you can report the incident to the Office of Institutional Equity, 406.994.5326.  This office will work with you to provide accommodations so you can be safe and successful at MSU.  A VOICE Center advocate can accompany you to this meeting.

If you decide you would like to pursue a formal investigation through MSU, Title IX investigators will investigate the report and submit the findings to the Dean of Students.   When allegations of interpersonal violence or misconduct are brought to the Office of Institutional Equity, and a respondent is found to have violated the  MSU nondiscrimination or sexual misconduct policy, serious sanctions may be issued to help ensure that such actions are never repeated.  Depending on the findings of the investigation, the Dean of Students may impose sanctions that include but are not limited to, no-contact orders, educational mandates, suspensions or dismissals from the University.

* MSU protects victims of interpersonal violence by not charging them with alcohol or drug violations of the Student Code of Conduct. 

 The MSU process through the Office of Institutional Equity is independent of the Criminal Justice process.  Victims of interpersonal violence can choose to pursue charges in either system, both systems, or to not bring any charges against their perpetrator.  Advocates can help you assess this option as well.  If you would like more information on MSU’s policies and procedures, you can contact the Office of Institutional Equity or the VOICE Center at 406.994.7069.

 Any student or visitor with questions or concerns about sex discrimination or sexual harassment or who believes that they have been the victim of sex discrimination or sexual harassment may contact the Title IX Coordinator for assistance.  

Pursuing Criminal Charges

MSU encourages reporting to the police at the earliest possibility; but even if a victim chooses not to report immediately, a report can be made later.  Reporting an assault is not the same as pressing charges and does not mean you have to go to court.  At the MSU Police Department, you can meet a detective or officer to make a report without immediately triggering a full scale investigation.  You can learn more about the process, meet the people involved, and make an informed decision.  * MSU Police Department protects victims of interpersonal violence by not charging them with alcohol or drug charges. 

If you make the decision to press charges, an investigation will occur and the City or County Attorney’s Office will review the case and determine (with your input) whether or not to file charges in the case.  Investigations can take several weeks and/or months to complete before a decision may be made about whether or not to file charges.  If charges are filed, a victim-advocate from the Attorney’s Office will keep you notified of the case and assist you through the process.

Report Incident Without Charges

Even if you are unsure whether or not you want to pursue any type of investigation, you can still report the incident to either the University, law enforcement, or both.  The VOICE Center, Office of Institutional Equity, and the University Police are all available to support your safety and well-being at MSU.  Things they may be able to assist you with include:

  • Getting a No Contact Order
  • Altering the academic environment
  • Residence changes
  • Providing academic support services
  • Connecting you with counseling or medical services
  • Providing escorts on campus
  • Speaking with your professors
  • Arranging for re-taking or withdrawal from course

Report Anonymously           

You also have the option to file an anonymous report about the crime (or any crime you witnessed) through MSU’s Silent Witness Program by emailing switness@montana.edu. 

Back to the Top

Stalking

Stalking is unwanted or obsessive attention by an individual or group towards another person.  Stalking behaviors are related or harassment or intimidation and may include monitoring, following, or invading the privacy of the victim.  See below for more information and options.

Safety

Stalking is a highly invasive crime that can make the victim feel very unsafe and vulnerable. If you are experiencing stalking, there are many options available to support you and increase your safety while working to end the stalking behaviors.

Advocacy

You may want to speak with an advocate at the MSU VOICE Center or the Help Center of Bozeman.  Advocates are available 24-hours per day at 406.994.7069 to provide emotional support and to inform you of the options available to you.  Advocates are also able to attend meetings with you, work with you to create a safety plan, help you report to police, and provide additional emotional support.

Stalking Log

Keeping a log of all stalking behaviors including: personal contact, run-ins, phone calls, text messages, emails, social media contact (including Facebook, Instagram, twitter, snapchat, tinder, etc.) can be extremely useful when experiencing stalking.  This log can be used as evidence if you decide to apply for an Order of Protection or if you decide to initiate an investigation through Law Enforcement.  This log may include times, dates, locations, important details, and copies/screen shots of communications.  If you have already reported to police, it can be helpful to call the police after each incident can record the case number in the log as well.  (Insert link to Stalking Log)

Safety Planning

Creating a safety plan that you can follow may provide some peace of mind if the stalking escalates to a dangerous situation.

Components of a basic safety plan:

  • Find a safe way out- If you are concerned about stalking at your home, school, or place of work, you may want to consider identifying alternate exits so you can leave safely and without running into the stalker. Identify which doors, windows, elevators, or stairwells you can use and practice this route.
  • Make a list- Important numbers such as local police, advocacy centers, family, friends, and/or employers. Determine a list of places you can go if you decide to leave.
  • Increasing safety at home- You may want to consider installing a peep-hole in your front door, changing locks, or adding a dead-bolt. If you have roommates or neighbors, you may consider informing them of the stalking behavior so they can be aware and help you keep an eye out for strange behavior.
  • Staying safe with technology- Many stalkers use technology to monitor their victims. You may want to consider making your social media accounts private, updating your passwords, blocking the stalker from your phone, email, and social media pages. If you are concerned about the stalker obtaining your passwords, consider changing them to a higher security setting.
  • Staying safe in the community- You may consider telling your friends or family members about the stalking behaviors in order to help keep you safe when you are out and about. Consider coming up with a code word to let your friends or family know if you see the stalker or if you feel uncomfortable so they can help remove you from the situation.
  • Take care of YOU! - call 911 if you are scared or in need of help. There are also many advocacy centers that can provide support, connect you with law enforcement, and help you obtain an order of protection.

Reporting Options for people impacted by Stalking

If you are experiencing stalking behavior and are unsure of the stalker’s location or are concerned for your personal safety, your local law enforcement officers may be able to contact the stalker and formally give them a warning by asking them to discontinue the stalking behavior.  If you are interested in working with law enforcement to issue a warning, you may contact the MSU VOICE Center or your local law enforcement agency for help.

As a member of the MSU community, you have several additional options regarding reporting the incident to authorities. You can:

  • Pursue Campus Disciplinary Actions                        
  • Pursue Criminal Charges
  • Pursue both University and Criminal Charges                                     
  • Report Incident but Choose not to Pursue Charges
  • Report Anonymously                                    
  • Do None of the Above (you are still entitled to seek support through the MSU VOICE Center, MSU Counseling, or any of the community resources)

At The VOICE Center, we can help all people impacted by stalking, regardless of their decision to report. If the survivor chooses not to report, they will still be welcome to speak with an advocate, meet with one of our therapists, attend a support group, and access any of our additional resources.

If the survivor chooses to report, our advocates can support them as they report to the University or police, help navigate the process after reporting, explain any paperwork, set up support and safety measures on campus, and accompany the survivor throughout any court proceedings.

The following will provide you with more information about these reporting options:

Pursuing Campus Disciplinary Actions:

If you are being stalked you can report the incident to the Office of Institutional Equity, 406.994.5326.  This office will work with you to provide accommodations so you can be safe and successful at MSU.  A VOICE Center advocate can accompany you to this meeting.

If you decide you would like to pursue a formal investigation through MSU, Title IX investigators will investigate the report and submit the findings to the Dean of Students.   When allegations of interpersonal violence or misconduct are brought to the Office of Institutional Equity, and a respondent is found to have violated the MSU  MSU nondiscrimination or sexual misconduct policy, serious sanctions may be issued to help ensure that such actions are never repeated.  Depending on the findings of the investigation, the Dean of Students may impose sanctions that include but are not limited to, no-contact orders, educational mandates, suspensions or dismissals from the University.

The MSU process through the Office of Institutional Equity is independent of the Criminal Justice process.  Victims of interpersonal violence, including stalking, can choose to pursue charges in either system, both systems, or to not bring any charges against their perpetrator.  Advocates can help you assess this option as well.  If you would like more information on MSU’s policies and procedures, you can visit the Office of Institutional Equity or contact VOICE Center at 406.994.7069.

 Any student or visitor with questions or concerns about sex discrimination or sexual harassment or who believes that they have been the victim of sex discrimination or sexual harassment may contact the Title IX Coordinator for assistance.  

Pursuing Criminal Charges

MSU encourages reporting to the police at the earliest possibility; but even if a victim chooses not to report immediately, a report can be made later.  Reporting an assault is not the same as pressing charges and does not mean you have to go to court.  At the MSU Police Department, you can meet a detective or officer to make a report without immediately triggering a full scale investigation.  You can learn more about the process, meet the people involved, and make an informed decision.  * MSU Police Department protects victims of interpersonal violence by not charging them with alcohol or drug charges. 

If you are experiencing stalking behavior and are unsure of the stalker’s location or are concerned for your personal safety, your local law enforcement officers may be able to contact the stalker and formally give them a warning by asking them to discontinue the stalking behavior.  This can often be done without pursuing charges, and can help alert law enforcement to the situation in the case that the behaviors escalate.  If you are interested in working with law enforcement to issue a warning, you may contact the MSU VOICE Center or your local law enforcement agency for help.

If you make the decision to pursue criminal charges, an investigation will occur and the City or County Attorney’s Office will review the case and determine (with your input) whether or not to file charges in the case.  Investigations can take several weeks and/or months to complete before a decision may be made about whether or not to file charges.  If charges are filed, a victim-advocate from the Attorney’s Office will keep you notified of the case and assist you through the process.

Report Incident Without Charges

Even if you are unsure whether or not you want to pursue any type of investigation, you can still report the incident to either the University, law enforcement, or both.  The VOICE Center, Office of Institutional Equity, and the University Police are all available to support your safety and well-being at MSU.  Things they may be able to assist you with include:

  • Obtaining a No Contact Order
  • Altering the academic environment
  • Residence changes
  • Providing academic support services
  • Connecting you with counseling or medical services
  • Providing escorts on campus
  • Speaking with your professors
  • Arranging for re-taking or withdrawal from course

Report Anonymously           

You also have the option to file an anonymous report about the crime (or any crime you witnessed) through MSU’s Silent Witness Program by emailing switness@montana.edu. 

Back to the Top