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If You’ve Been Accused of Sexual Misconduct or Harassment at College, You Need an Experienced School Harassment Attorney
As a college student facing accusations of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment is a very serious matter. These accusations have the potential to trigger both academic discipline and criminal charges; and, if you are unable to dispute the accusations successfully, they could truly impact the rest of your life. If you are facing these accusations, protecting yourself needs to be your priority, and it is strongly in your best interests to speak with a school harassment attorney right away.
Assisting students accused of sexual misconduct or harassment in violation of a school code of conduct across the United States
Many college students believe that teasing, flashing, or other acts of a sexual nature are harmless and simply to be seen as entertaining. Increasingly, however, targets of these behaviors, both male and female, are reporting them to the administration of your college or university. Regardless of your stated intention or belief that the conduct was welcomed or accepted by the other person, if your actions are received as threatening or even just unwanted, you may be accused by your school of serious sexual misconduct or harassment. Acts such as unwanted sexual advances, exposure, voyeurism, or sexually explicit communications are all violations of your college’s code of conduct and may result in extremely serious long-term consequences.
Our highly experienced school harassment attorneys at Duffy Law know how to protect your rights in the face of serious code of conduct or Title IX infringement allegations, so please call Duffy Law, LLC at 203-946-2000 for a consultation today.
Schools take complaints of sexual misconduct and harassment very seriously
Federal laws such as the Clery Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 require colleges and universities that receive funds from the federal government to take sexual complaints extremely seriously and, if they fail to do so, they may face sanctions from the Department of Education. Under Title IX, schools are required to investigate complaints of sexual harassment. For this reason and more, schools often initiate an extensive investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment.
If the school determines that you violated the code of conduct and the alleged misconduct or harassment occurred, the administration is required to do whatever is necessary to prevent and deter future misconduct. This often means that violators face harsh penalties including:
- Disciplinary probation
- Formal reprimand
- Loss of financial aid or housing
In the event that you are suspended or expelled, your transcript will likely reflect the fact that you violated the code of conduct regarding sexual harassment or misconduct. This can substantially affect your chances of admission into other universities or advanced degree programs and ultimately your career.
What constitutes sexual misconduct on (or off) a college campus?
Sexual conduct does not have one specific definition. Rather, laws vary from state to state, and policies vary from one college to the next. Acts that constitute sexual misconduct in some states and at some schools may be classified as sexual harassment in others, so determining what laws or policies apply to your situation is the first step toward building an effective defense.
Generally speaking, sexual misconduct includes a broad range of conduct from unwelcome comments to sexual assault. Making inappropriate jokes, using sexual innuendo, and other forms of conduct that are not intended to cause harm may fall into this category. When facing any type of allegations, the specific label your state or your school applies is far less important than the penalties that are at stake and the defenses you have available.
What constitutes sexual harassment in the school environment?
Sexual harassment can take many different forms. Broadly speaking, colleges and universities can (and will) discipline students for forms of sexual harassment that are verbal, nonverbal and physical in nature. This includes (but is not limited to) acts such as:
- Making comments about a person’s physical appearance
- Sending sexually inappropriate emails, texts or direct messages
- Posting sexually inappropriate comments on others’ social media posts
- Inappropriately touching or groping a person without that person’s consent
- Exposing oneself or making obscene gestures
- Hazing rituals
- Stalking (either in person or online)
- Sharing sexually explicit photos or videos with another person
- Sharing sexually explicit photos or videos of another person (including revenge pornography)
- Making someone feel intimidated in a sexual manner
- Sexual assault
While consent can be a defense to sexual harassment in some cases, consent isn’t always easy to prove. In addition, in many cases, accusers will assert that they felt coerced or felt that they had no choice but to consent or stay silent out of fear for their safety. Of course, under no circumstances should you fall victim to false allegations; and, if the allegations against you simply are not true, your sexual harassment attorney can gather the available evidence to build as strong a case as possible.
What should you expect after being accused of sexual harassment at school?
Once you have been accused of sexual harassment, your school will almost certainly conduct an investigation. Depending on the severity of the allegations, the police may investigate as well (the police will almost certainly be involved in cases involving allegations of sexual assault or rape. These investigations can be intimidating, and they can also be dangerous. If you are facing accusations, you will want a school harassment lawyer to represent you during the investigative process. Your lawyer will be able to communicate with the school and the police for you, assert your legal rights on your behalf and begin steering the matter toward as favorable a resolution as possible.
Once the school’s investigation is over, you will most likely be required to attend a disciplinary hearing (unless your lawyer is able to resolve your case at the investigative stage). As discussed above, this is a very serious matter that can potentially have life-altering implications. Your attorney can help you prepare, represent you at the hearing (if this is permitted), and ensure that you preserve your right to appeal if necessary (and if you have this right). Depending on the outcome of the hearing, at this point, the whole ordeal may be over, or you may find yourself facing one (or more) of the penalties listed above.
Disciplinary proceedings can be complex
In many cases, your school will conduct a disciplinary hearing to determine whether a violation occurred. Unlike a traditional criminal case, however, you do not have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and the allegations against you do not have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for punishment to be imposed. You may not even have the right to have a lawyer with you or appeal the decision in the future.
Sexual misconduct and harassment cases often involve the alleged victim’s word against yours. For this reason, it is important to find any evidence possible to assert your innocence. Text messages, emails, witness reports, and more can demonstrate that any sexual conduct that occurred was not unwanted. Often, however, you may not realize that such evidence exists. An experienced attorney will know how to investigate the circumstances of your case in order to gather evidence and build an effective defense against the accusations.
Do I need to hire a school harassment attorney?
Given all that you have at stake, it is strongly in your best interests to hire a school harassment lawyer to represent you. When you hire a school harassment lawyer at Duffy Law, your lawyer will:
- Investigate the Allegations Against You – When facing allegations of sexual misconduct or sexual harassment, it is extremely important that you gather evidence independent of the school’s investigation. Your sexual harassment attorney at Duffy Law will investigate promptly to identify all available evidence and determine what witnesses are available to testify on your behalf.
- Represent You in All Formal and Informal Communications – In order to preserve your legal rights and ensure that you do not inadvertently say anything that could jeopardize your defense, your lawyer will represent you in all formal and informal communications with school officials and law enforcement.
- Build Your Defense – After gathering the available evidence and evaluating the circumstances of your case, your lawyer will build a defense strategy focused on protecting you to the fullest extent possible.
- Represent You at Your Disciplinary Hearing – If permitted, your lawyer will represent you at your disciplinary hearing. If your lawyer is not allowed to be present, your lawyer will help you prepare thoroughly—including anticipating questions, crafting and practicing your responses and prepared statements, and ensuring that you know exactly what to expect when your hearing date arrives.
- Evaluate Your Next Steps (if Necessary) – When sexual harassment allegations get publicized, they can cause significant harm to a college student’s reputation (this is especially common in cases involving high-profile student athletes). Unfortunately, when students are cleared of wrongdoing, this typically does not get the same level of coverage. If necessary, our lawyers can assist with media relations and rebuilding your public reputation. We can also assist with appealing the outcome of your disciplinary hearing and/or pursuing other legal avenues.
Let Duffy Law Protect Your Rights
Allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment can have a seriously adverse effect on your future. Our highly knowledgeable Title IX and Conduct Code attorneys understand the different rules and procedures of collegiate disciplinary proceedings. We know how to present evidence in your defense to mitigate or eliminate the consequences. Call Duffy Law, LLC at 203-946-2000 now for a confidential consultation.