The bottom line is that after college rape a student must make choices, report to the school, report to law enforcement or don’t report. Discuss these choices with your child and support whatever decisions they make.
1. Report or Not Report
Many survivors look back after their assaults and regret even reporting them. Not reporting is a valid option. This must always be the final decision of the survivor.
2. CAMPUS ADJUDICATION PROCESS
Colleges must investigate and address reports of sexual harassment, dating violence, stalking and sexual assault. After reporting a survivor decides if they want to go forward with a campus hearing. The campus adjudication process is complex and different at every school. A typical investigation takes approximately 60 calendar days following receipt of the complaint. Currently schools must use a ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard in campus hearings, meaning that the accused student should be found ‘responsible’ and should be disciplined accordingly, if it is more likely than not that the violence occurred. If your child is has decided on a campus judicial hearing, Parents Take Action to End Rape On Campus advocates can support you through what can be a nightmarishly frustrating and confusing process, and can help you answer critical questions such as:
To whom does the survivor make a statement or report?
Is their statement written down or recorded?
How long is the investigation?
What is the standard of proof used?
Who is on the hearing panel?
Who is allowed in the hearing?
What evidence is presented at the hearing?
Is there an appeal process?
What are the rules for the appeal process?
Does the survivor need a lawyer and how to find an affordable lawyer?
What accommodations should the school be providing?
3. CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROCESS
Schools must make clear to students that they can file a criminal complaint with law enforcement in addition to requesting campus adjudication. School representatives often discourage students from contacting law enforcement or pursuing a criminal case. Schools are interested in protecting the institution and their reputation first. Regardless of your child’s decision of how to proceed they have the right to go to a hospital and get a rape kit from a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). Not all hospitals provide SANE nurses so they may have to travel to a hospital that does. Be aware that rape kits can be destroyed in as little as 30 days if criminal charges are not brought or if your child does not specifically ask for it to be preserved through an attorney. Your child can file a police report. Do not push your child to make a decision one way or the other. Be aware, there are pitfalls to the criminal justice process which does not necessarily offer a good alternative to campus adjudication process. The standard of proof is higher in a criminal trial. D.A.’s are not victim advocates. However, many cases are not prosecuted unless the victim goes to the police quickly. Your child can decide to have both a campus adjudication process and file criminal charges.
For survivors who make the decision to move forward with reporting the assault, there are a number of possible options to be familiar while pursuing justice.
1. CIVIL LITIGATION
Your child can sue perpetrators for personal injury and damages. Your child can also pursue a civil case against their school under Title IX. Parents of high school students can sue on their child’s behalf. Your child can pursue a civil suit against a fraternity if their sexual assault occurred there. The statute of limitation varies from state to state. We can recommend lawyers for your child to pursue these cases on a contingency basis. You won’t necessarily need money but will pay a portion of the money you receive from a settlement but you may need money for expenses. Title IX lawsuits against schools are not easy to win. Victims need to show that the school had actual knowledge of the sexual harassment or violence and deliberately ignored it. Many have nonetheless pursued this option and won.
2. TITLE IX Complaint
Students can file a Title IX Complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education (DOE) at no cost within 180 days after the last violation of Title IX. Parents can also file a Title IX Complaint on their child’s behalf. This should never be done without the survivor’s complete approval. A Title IX Complaint with the Department of Education is not the same thing as a Title IX lawsuit. A Title IX lawsuit is a civil suit in which the victim or survivor sues their school. A Title IX Complaint is an official written complaint to the government stating how the school violated or is not in compliance with Title IX. We can connect you with someone who can help you file a Title IX complaint. If the DOE decides to open an investigation into a school this will become public. The DOE can provide remedies to survivors at schools that are not in compliance with Title IX.
3. CLERY Complaint
Students as well as parents can file a Clery Complaint. A Clery complaint is a document that details the ways in which the college has violated the Clery Act and/or the Campus Sexual Assault Victim’s Bill of Rights. Clery complaints may include incidents such as: misreporting of crime statistics, victims discouraged from reporting assaults, timely campus warnings not issued after an assault. If a student with percieves their school is not in compliance with the Clery Act and their rightshave been violated, a Federal complaint may be filed. Information re: filing a Clery complaint can be found here.
4. TITLE II Complaint
Some victims and survivors of campus violence have physical injuries, and many show symptoms of depression and/or post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Physical injuries that create disabling conditions, and depression and PTSD are covered disabilities under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under Title II, students have rights to academic adjustments and auxiliary aids and services that are necessary to afford a student with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in school. Schools should provide testing accommodation, assignment extensions, and opportunities for students to request medical incompletes in courses and medical withdraw beyond the typical course drop deadline. If a student with a disability feels their rights under Title II have been violated, a Federal complaint may be filed.
If you feel your child’s rights are being violated under FERPA you can file a FERPA complaint.
6. ENGAGING THE MEDIA
Engaging the media can be a powerful tool in finding justice. Great care should be taken in choosing which reporters you can trust. We can explain your options to speak with local or national media.
7. LEGAL REPRESENTATION
If you can afford to, you can retain a lawyer at any point after learning of your child’s assault. We can help you define what you want your lawyer to do.