In the fight against student sexual assaults, are colleges going too far?

In the fight against student sexual assaults, are colleges going too far?

On behalf of David Dusek at Dusek Law

Grand Forks support group helps students falsely accused of sexual assault

Sexual assaults on college campuses are getting a lot of national attention. The White House earlier this year created a task force to look for ways to prevent sexual assault among students. National media and pundits have declared that colleges are not doing enough to prevent sexual assaults and punish perpetrators. Over 70 campuses are facing federal investigation for violating the civil rights of alleged victims.

Everyone agrees that sexual assault on college campuses is not acceptable. Reducing the number of sexual assaults on college campuses is a noble goal. But college administrations and student groups may have swung too far - leading to unnecessary persecution of innocent students.

It happens more often than one might think. For those who have been falsely accused of sexual assault, there are very real detrimental effects - even if there is never a conviction for sexual assault and the accused person has never done anything wrong.

A recent article in The Bismark Tribune highlighted what can happen to someone falsely accused of sexual assault. The student, who went to the University of North Dakota in 2010, was kicked out of school a month after another student accused him of sexual assault. He was kicked out despite never being charged with a crime.

Nearly three months after a Student Relations Committee found him a significant threat to the health and safety of the school community, his accuser was charged with making a false report to police. A warrant was issued for her arrest, although she never spent any time in jail and has since moved out of state.

After a year and a half of rehearings, pressure from alumni and a civil rights organization, the student is now able to re-enlist at UND - but understandably does not feel comfortable doing so. He lost two jobs because of the accusation. The student's mother has since started a support group, the non-profit Families Advocating for Campus Equality. The nonprofit's goal is to advocate for "fair and balanced safeguards within campus hearings."

According to a recent article by NPR, dozens of students accused of sexual assault are suing campuses, claiming that their Title IX rights were violated and they never received a fair shot at proving their innocence.

A criminal defense attorney may help

It is easy for people to assume guilt. The more heinous the crime, the more likely others are to assume the accused is guilty and treat him or her accordingly. Fortunately, we live in a country where there must be guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before a person charged with a crime can be convicted in criminal court.

Clearing a person's name can take more than a not-guilty verdict, however. Especially for crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assault and sex crimes, an innocent person accused of such a crime should seek to clear his or her name by whatever legal means necessary.

Grand Forks residents accused of sexual assault or a sex crime should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. With a person's future, livelihood and good name at stake, it is too important not to protect the rights afforded by the constitution and the law.

Keywords: Sexual assault, college, wrongly accused