January 31, 2018

Think Piece on How Ombuds Refer to Parties in Sexual Misconduct Cases

Mediators and trainers at MWI, Chuck Doran and Megan Winkeler, have published a provocative article, “How Should Ombuds Refer to Parties in Sexual Harassment Cases?” They point out that the traditional labels, “complainant” and “respondent” or “accuser” and “accused” come from a litigation context and set the wrong tone for an Ombuds. Doran and Winkeler suggest shifting the frame from blame to impact and using “impacted” and “actor.” They are hoping for a conversation around this issue, so read the full post and let them know what you think. (MWI Blog.) 

Related posts: Dispute Resolution Forum at Harvard Features Ombuds; Advice to Mediators from an External Ombuds; Mediation Myths Debunked; MWI Mediation Training in Boston; IOA Video Promotes Ombuds for Surfacing & Addressing Sexual Misconduct.


  1. I would refer to both parties the same way I would to any other individual seeking ombuds services: Visitor.

  2. In conversation with my visitor I wouldn't use labels, at least not initially. I would simply call people by their name. If a visitor had questions about a formal process, I would then use the labels indicated by that process.

  3. I've never liked visitor. Its too social and familiar.
    The programs I have lead an built have endeavored to refer to those who we are in contact with by the relationship to the Office - Did the "press the button" of our function? If such they are Initiators. The are starting something that will ideally make contributions and improvements for them, others and perhaps even the institution. Those who the Office brings into the process are called Respondents. They are responding to the request for communication and taking part.

  4. Ummm, "respondent" is a legal term. Not too smart.

    When a term is agreed upon by a profession, don't make up new ones. It weakens the profession.

    [Remainder of comment deleted by moderator.]

    1. I edited a portion of this comment, which I perceived as off topic and a personal attack.