Many think that on college campuses, sex assault cases occur more frequently than in other areas of society. RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), estimates that 11.2% of college and graduate students will experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
Some would argue that this higher rate occurs due to the concentration of younger people, higher rates of experimentation, and substance abuse/use. Others argue that while these may be factors, and the rates may be higher, students today over report consensual encounters as sexual assaults due to misinformation that has been provided to them by school administrations and other well meaning entities.
For whatever the reason, we see many cases of alleged sexual assault from college campuses and in college age adults. Often times we see multiple legal venues where these cases must be fought, these may include:
- Title 9 Actions. Where a school takes administrative action against a student who is accused of a sexual assault. These actions occur independently of police investigations or criminal court process. An accused person can be expelled from school, and they may have difficulty gaining admittance to another educational institution as a result of this finding. These actions occur quickly in a process that only requires that the school believe that by a "preponderance of the evidence" a sexual assault occurred. As a practical matter, schools are much more likely to believe an accuser, than the accused. The procedures for the accused to fight back or even learn the evidence against them in these proceedings are very limited. More and more students are suing their schools in federal court, alleging that schools have violated their rights in these systems.
- Sexual Assault Protection Orders (SAPO). These actions are civil cases where the accuser appears in court and seeks a protection order that prohibits the accuser from contacting them, being in their vicinity, attending their school, or having others contact them. A person can be prohibited from attending college before they have ever had a chance to see a judge. These cases occur very quickly, sometimes with as little as a weeks notice between the initial service of the order and the time that a final hearing is held to determine whether a permanent order will be put in place.
- Criminal Rape Cases. This is the usual way that these allegations are handled. Often times a police officer takes an initial report of the incident before the case is assigned to a detective for investigation. The detective will often wait until their investigation is complete before contacting the accused, sometimes at their work or home, and asking them to suddenly provide a narrative of what happened. It is always best to consult with a criminal defense attorney before meeting or speaking with the police.
Our office handles all of these actions on behalf of the accused. We regularly defend those who have been asked to leave college or high school campuses due to allegations of sexual assault or misconduct. The most important thing to do when you or someone you know has been accused of something like this, is that the system is not intuitive or fair. If you don't have a good defense attorney to help you navigate it, you are likely to be at a disadvantage to the accuser, who has detectives, prosecutors, others working for them.
We find that many false allegations of college age sexual assault are related to guilt, shame, or substance abuse. Many accusers are embarrassed that they did something they wouldn't normally do: cheat on a boyfriend; get drunk and hook up; or not remember what happened. This can lead to a situation where they find it easier to blame the other person, even though the other person may have felt the same way. Other times we see that someone scorned the accuser after a hook up, and the accuser makes an allegation to get revenge on them.
Whatever the reason for the accusation, it is important to remember that these allegations can have lifelong consequences related to education, careers, and many other areas of our lives.