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Title IX

What to do if you are accused of sexual assault in college

By October 14, 2021No Comments

It’s a tale we’ve heard too many times: Two college students have too much to drink at a party, and the next morning they wake up to find that something has happened between them that they regret.

Or maybe nothing happened at all, and one of them is misremembering. Whatever the situation, accusations of sexual assault are often more complicated than they may seem at first glance.

If you’ve been accused of sexual assault on a college campus, your school is probably pursuing Title IX disciplinary proceedings. Even though your school’s disciplinary process is distinct from the US criminal justice system, the best thing you can do to protect your academic future is to contact a Title IX defense attorney.

At Hiltner Trial Lawyers, we have a reputation for fighting to keep good people out of trouble. From our expert team of criminal defense attorneys, here’s what to do if you’re accused of sexual assault under Title IX on a college campus.

What is Title IX?

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is the federal law that allows alleged victims of sexual harassment or assault to argue that their sexual assault or harassment violates their right to equal opportunity in education. The law reads:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

Since the 1970s, courts have interpreted this law as a protection against sexual harassment or assault. The argument goes that a culture of harassment, as well as a tendency on campus to disbelieve those who come forward about their experiences, create a hostile environment for many women, LGBTQ folks, and other survivors of sexual assault.

If your school receives any federal funding, they probably have a Title IX administrator, or at least a staff member who handles student claims of sexual assault or discrimination under Title IX. If you’ve been accused of sexual assault through a Title IX claim, your school is probably investigating the incident through this mechanism.

What are the differences between a criminal trial and a university disciplinary charge?

One thing to keep in mind if you’re under investigation for a Title IX violation is that your university’s disciplinary proceedings are not the same thing as a criminal investigation.

It’s possible for a claimant to pursue both university and criminal avenues for their accusation, but if you’re not being criminally charged for sexual assault, then you only have to concern yourself with your school’s process for investigating claims of sexual assault.

Here are some of the differences between the student disciplinary process and the criminal justice system:

  • You don’t have the right to an attorney in student disciplinary proceedings (but you are still allowed to obtain legal counsel to provide guidance)
  • The investigation is usually conducted by faculty, staff, or students at your university, instead of police
  • School administrations may introduce interim measures as investigations are underway, such as no-contact orders, removal from campus housing, removal from extracurricular activities, or even interim suspension
  • Consequences may include suspension or expulsion, but, unless there is a simultaneous criminal investigation happening, can’t include criminal penalties like jail time

What should I do if I’m accused of campus sexual assault?

Even though Title IX proceedings might not be the same as a criminal investigation, there are some serious consequences you can face if you’re accused of sexual assault under Title IX at your school.

These consequences can include:

  • Disciplinary probation
  • Suspension
  • Expulsion
  • Removal from organizations and extracurricular activities
  • Loss of scholarship
  • Withholding a degree
  • Loss of employment / tenure (if the accused is a staff member or professor)

That’s why it’s crucial to do everything you can to defend your rights if you’re accused.

Here’s what to do if you’re accused of sexual assault on a college campus:

  • Don’t talk about the proceedings to anyone on campus
  • Don’t retaliate against your accuser or try to talk to them without speaking to your attorney first
  • Gather any evidence you have access to that supports your side of the story
  • Contact a defense attorney as soon as possible

Contact an Ohio Title IX defense attorney today

At Hiltner Trial Lawyers, we represent clients accused of Title IX violations all the time. Our number one priority is to protect people’s rights and make sure their voices are heard in the investigative process. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case.