What is the Behavior Assessment Team?

Woman getting a consultation

Mia Embling, program coordinator for the Equal Opportunity and Equity (EOE) unit within the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity, spoke to Tina Nelson-Moss, Ph.D., director of the Department of Risk Assessment, to discuss the role of the Behavior Assessment Team (BAT), who files a report to BAT, and the role that BAT and the Violence Prevention and Threat Management office (VPTM) plays on campus. Nelson-Moss leads both BAT and VPTM, serves on the NC State University Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and works closely with EOE. And as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Nelson-Moss explains how BAT can assist survivors.

Diversity Digest: Can you tell me just a little bit about BAT and what it is? 

Tina Nelson-Moss: The Behavior Assessment Team is a multidisciplinary team of individuals that represent several different offices across campus and address concerns from a threat assessment/threat management standpoint involving employees, students and individuals not affiliated with the university. We assess primarily concerns related to violent behavior or potential violence, and we develop management strategies to help mitigate or prevent an escalation of concerns. We assess each case by interviewing and providing case management to victims/survivors, sometimes to witnesses and to individuals that present concerning and/or threatening behavior. 

Digest: We are in the middle of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Could you could talk about how BAT and VPTM support individuals and what you do to help them? 

Nelson-Moss: When we work with survivors, oftentimes, it’s really just doing some safety planning; many times we will do joint interviews with or soft-handoffs from the Women’s Center or from the Equal Opportunity and Equity unit, so individuals don’t have to talk to several different individuals on multiple occasions. In a joint interview, we look more in those situations for violence risk and the potential for ongoing behavior and ask questions that are a little bit different than an EOE investigator or the Women’s Center staff would. The primary focus is really to develop individualized safety planning and to connect individuals, whether it is the respondent, survivor or witnesses, with additional resources to assist them. 

With sexual assault specifically, we do not get involved with every case, because the reality is that we are looking at things from an ongoing threat standpoint, so we may just provide some safety planning, or we may be gathering more information that is helping us to assess from a violence risk standpoint. 

Digest: For those who may not be as familiar with the term safety planning, what might that entail?  

Nelson-Moss: Every case is different, and it depends on the dynamics involved in the case. In general, it’s gathering information related to what the concerns are, and especially in domestic and dating violence, individuals don’t always want to leave the relationships. We may develop safety planning, including looking at what that relationship looks like if they want to stay in that relationship. So that could be developing a code word that identifies when things are starting to escalate and helping them identify what are the behaviors or signs that things are about to escalate; that if they need to get out of a place, how do they get out? 

It could include, discussing the possibility of sharing with your roommates or your neighbors, that if they see something suspicious or if they see a particular vehicle, to contact law enforcement, and developing a code word with their friends or family members. Making sure that they have extra cash on them and making sure that their phones are charged is also another way to plan. Safety planning may also include identifying a safe place that they can go to, looking at social media and what’s online to see what information is publicly available on them.  

Safety planning can also relate to their animals and the care for them. If you have to leave, where are some places where you can have your animals be housed and give them resources of places that would be willing to care for animals. Because oftentimes, these are barriers, whether it is with children or with animals — if I have to go into a shelter or move on campus and or to another place, where can I have my cats and dogs and birds stay during the time period? So really, walking them through those things, what’s important to them and what are the things that they need to help them feel safe? Because we could put all these measures in place, but at the end of the day, they have control of what they need to help them feel safe.

We have cases that involve individuals that are not citizens of the United States, and especially our foreign national students. So we talk about ensuring that they have their passports and/or identifying information. Oftentimes for respondents, or individuals that are engaging in abusive behavior, the passport and other immigration papers is something that they might have control over for the other party. That’s where there’s a lot of fear in what to do. So we walk them through how to plan for these situations and we work with Student Legal Resources and other campus or off-campus partners to offer them resources. 

Digest: What should an individual do if they don’t feel safe? 

Nelson-Moss: I would encourage them to reach out to our department. They can also reach out to the Women’s Center or to the Equal Opportunity and Equity unit, who handle Title IX incidents. All that matters is that they reach out to someone that can provide them with support and help them navigate the next steps. The biggest challenge is that no one expects to experience something like this. The thing for them to expect from us is that we are going to listen and we are going to help walk through the safety concerns they have and empower them to be able to make their own decisions of what they would want to do to help them feel safe. We can provide examples of different actions that could be done, such as an administrative no-contact order through the university or changing their class schedule, for example. The reality is that they need to do what they feel helps them feel safe.  Navigating the process with them and helping them get connected to resources is the best way. If it’s an immediate safety concern; however, I would encourage an individual to call 911.

Digest: How can someone make a BAT referral? 

QR code for BATNelson-Moss: If an individual has a concern for the well-being or safety of a student/employee or if there are concerns related to any acts of violence, potential violence, threatening behaviors or other violations of the Campus/Workplace Violence Prevention and Management Regulation, there are several reporting options. All reports will be handled in as confidential manner as possible, with information released only on a need-to-know basis or as required by law.

For concerns related to the well-being of a student, please either share concerns online or reach out to Prevention Services at 919.515.4405 or for concerns regarding the well-being of students or employees, please contact the Department of Risk Assessment – Violence Prevention Threat Management Program at 919.513.4224.

The Concerning Behavior/Cares referral can be found by using the QR code or going to our website at go.ncsu.edu/risk-assessment and clicking the red button on the side that says “Share Concerns.”

Additional Information for Employees

Refer to an immediate supervisor (or second level supervisor if the alleged perpetrator is the immediate supervisor), an Employee Relations staff member (919.515.6575), the Risk Assessment Case Manager (919.513.4224), or University Police (919-515-3000). Reports can be made in person, via phone, email or through the online reporting form.

Additional Information for Students

Students and employees should immediately report any acts of violence, potential violence, threatening behavior or other violations of the Campus/Workplace Violence Prevention and Management Regulation, when a student is involved, to the Office of Student Conduct (919.515.2963), the Risk Assessment Case Manager (919.513.4224), or University Police (919.515,3000).

For immediate safety concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to University Police at 911 or 919.515.3000.

For more information related to reporting/sharing concerns, please refer to the Department of Risk Assessment website at go.ncsu.edu/risk-assessment.

Mia Embling is program coordinator in the Equal Opportunity and Equity within the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity.