Sex Offenses Law

Sexual Assault On-Campus: What You Need To Know

This content contains sensitive subject matter related to legal defense for crimes of a sexual nature.

Being accused of sexual assault can ruin your reputation. False allegations of sexual violence can lead to criminal charges, university sanctions, and even get you kicked out of school. If someone is accusing you of campus sexual assault, you need to take it seriously and find out about your rights.

Sexual assault and sexual harassment are criminal offenses under state law. To understand how sex crimes are handled in your state, talk to a local sex crime defense attorney for legal advice.

What Is Sexual Assault On-Campus?

Sex assault on-campus involves rape or sexual assault while attending a college or university. Sexual assault can happen on or off campus, including in dorm rooms, bars, or someone’s car. Sexual assault can involve professors, teacher assistants, or staff members.

According to a report by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), there is a higher prevalence of sexual assault incidents among college women, students with disabilities, sorority members, and minorities. However, anyone can be at risk of sexual assault, including transgender and LGBTQIA+ students. Types of sexual misconduct on college campuses can include:

  • Unwanted sexual contact
  • Sexual coercion
  • Alcohol-related sexual assault
  • Attempted rape

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports 13% of all students experience rape or sexual assault. Among undergraduate students, 26.4% of female students and 6.8% of men experience sexual assault through violence, physical force, or incapacitation. Victims of sexual assault can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline for support.

Criminal Penalties for Sexual Assault

Most campus police have the authority to arrest suspects on campus or off campus. Campus police may then refer the case to local law enforcement for investigation.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), an estimated 63% of sexual assaults are never reported to police. College student victims of assault may not think anyone will believe them. Victims may also be embarrassed, ashamed, or too traumatized to discuss it.

Sexual assault is a criminal offense. Different states have different terms for sexual violence, including:

  • Rape
  • Date rape
  • Sexual abuse
  • Sexual battery
  • Criminal sexual conduct

Most sex crimes, including sexual assault, are felony offenses. The penalties for a felony conviction for campus sexual violence include more than a year in prison, fines, parole, and a felony criminal record.

Some sex crimes may also require registration as a sex offender. Registered sex offenders have to register with law enforcement. Sex offender registries are available online for anyone to search. The public can search for sex offenders in their area by name or location. The public website shows the offender’s name, address, criminal convictions, and photograph.

University Investigations for Sexual Assault

Title IX civil rights laws require schools to follow certain procedures set out by the U.S. Department of Education. Universities that get federal funding for education programs are required to investigate cases of sexual assault on campus.

Private and state university investigations generally have a lower burden of proof than in criminal court. Sexual assault cases are based on a “preponderance of the evidence,” meaning more likely than not. Criminal cases are based on the standard “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means a student could be found responsible in a university investigation but not guilty in court.

The lower standard for sexual assault cases can mean that innocent people are punished by their universities because someone claimed sexual assault. Higher education institutes may also have overly broad definitions of consent, especially when alcohol is involved. Based on false allegations, a student can get kicked out of school and lose their opportunity to complete their education or get a college degree.

How Can a Lawyer Help Defend Against Sexual Assault Charges?

There are legal defenses against sexual assault charges. If you are facing criminal charges for sexual assault, talk to your attorney about your defense options. Defenses to sexual assault can include:

  • The other person consented to sex
  • Lack of evidence
  • Unreliable DNA evidence
  • The alleged victim was motivated to lie about the assault
  • Unlawful search and seizure

A defense attorney can represent you in court to challenge the prosecutor’s case. If there are disciplinary procedures at your school, your attorney may also be able to represent you in the university hearing. In some cases, your attorney can also negotiate to get reduced charges to help you avoid a criminal record. Talk to a sex crime defense attorney for advice about your situation.

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