It is virtually impossible right now to browse news stories without coming across another report of a high-profile individual accused of rape, sexual assault, or other sexual misconduct. Of course, sexual misbehavior is not a new problem, but recent months have seen an explosion of new allegations against movie producers, actors, comedians, and other influential people. Almost none of these cases have seen the inside of a courtroom yet—or even a formal filing—but careers have already been ruined, and lives have been turned upside down. Alleged offenders are being found guilty in the court of public opinion, with little regard for the nuances of each situation.
Unfortunately, concerns about the lack of due process are not limited to accusations of misconduct by prominent individuals. Over the last few years, the issue has presented itself on college campuses across the country. Students—male students, mostly—have found themselves suspended, expelled, and generally excoriated solely on the basis of allegations of sexual misconduct.
Title IX Considerations
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972—commonly known as just “Title IX”—is a federal law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational programs and other activities that receive federal funding. At the university level, Title IX has been a topic of discussion in regards to men’s and women’s sports, scholarships, and a number of other areas. More recently, however, there are growing concerns that Title IX is being brushed aside by institutions looking to protect their reputations and bottom lines. Specifically, an increasing number of people believe that men and women are treated very differently when it comes to how colleges and universities deal with complaints of sexual assault.
Some situations, such as the accusations made against members of the Duke University lacrosse team a decade ago, have made national headlines. While the allegations were ultimately false, the lives of the accused were forever changed. Other cases are handled more quietly—including the case involving a student at Drake University in Iowa who was expelled for allegations of rape. In that situation, the university reportedly accepted only the alleged victim’s version of events and refused to give credibility to witnesses who corroborated the accused’s story.
The Pendulum Swings
Under President Barack Obama, institutions of higher education were tasked with taking a harder line against campus sexual assault. Sex crime victims are often afraid to come forward, and when left unchecked, sexual violence is an enormous problem. The efforts to eradicate sexual assault, however, seems to have had some unintended consequences, especially when it comes to investigations and decision-making. Some people would even suggest that things have gone too far in the opposite direction.
Reports of sexual assault have increased dramatically in recent years while some universities rely on a single investigator for each case. That means one person is responsible for gathering information—however much he or she thinks is sufficient—and making judgments about the allegation. Perhaps even more bothersome to many is that the burden of proof in such cases is now “by a preponderance of the evidence”—which simply means “more likely than not.” Compare that to the “clear and convincing evidence” standard in many civil trials and the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required for a criminal conviction. A preponderance of the evidence standard affords the accused the least protections, even as the investigatory process is relatively flexible and often full of holes.
Contact Us for Help
At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we realize that sexual violence and misconduct are certainly problems in today’s world. We also know that those who are accused are entitled to the due process of law. If you or someone you love has been charged with sexual assault—including on-campus sexual assault—contact an experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney. Call [[phone1]] for a free consultation today.