An unfounded allegation of sexual misconduct can be an especially bitter pill to swallow. If you know you're innocent, you are totally within your rights to see the entire situation as completely unfair. That's all the more true if the accuser shows up from your past, a person you'd long forgotten about who suddenly, out of the blue, has an unfounded story to tell about you.
You may be tempted to dismiss the entire situation, to ignore it, and assume everything will sort itself out. After all, you didn't do anything, so why should you be bothered trying to defend yourself. If you're in college, your life is full of far more important responsibilities: chemistry labs, English lit papers, psychology midterms.
Unfortunately, ignoring the situation is the worst possible response to allegations like these. If they've shown up from the past, the accuser may be especially motivated. More importantly, you can count on your school to treat the charges seriously.
Where Did This Come From?
It might be difficult to understand why anyone would deliberately make a false accusation against another person, especially about something as serious as sexual misconduct. Such accusations can and do happen every day, though.
In some cases, the allegation may be motivated by revenge. Perhaps a relationship didn't work out the way the accuser had hoped. You may not be entirely blameless: maybe you were unfaithful, and the accuser sees this as a chance, misguided as it is, to get back at you. In other cases, an accuser may be driven by a desire to gain sympathy or attention. Other examples of false allegations happen because the accuser comes to regret what they did and relabels a consensual encounter as non-consensual. In fact, one study (de Zutter, 2017) found that 20% of false accusers don't even know why they did it.
Accusations that come from the past can be even more bewildering. Why would someone make something up from long ago? Many of the reasons are the same. The accuser might, for instance, be driven by revenge. Maybe you're succeeding in college where they didn't. Maybe you've gone on to have fulfilling relationships while they're still lonely. It could also be possible that they are in a new relationship and trying to correct what they see as mistakes from their past.
Whatever the reason, though, it's important you recognize that if they have decided to pursue an allegation from so long ago, they are highly motivated. Otherwise, they wouldn't be going to so much trouble. Treat the situation with the seriousness it merits.
A Perfect Storm
There's another reason you may be tempted to take an allegation from your past lightly. You're in college. It feels like you're in a protective bubble where you're learning how to be an adult but not yet subject to the same consequences that adults are. After all, if you oversleep a class, you're not going to get fired.
When it comes to sexual misconduct, though, it doesn't matter whether you're in college or not. In fact, a college or university may be more likely to pursue such an allegation than the police would. That's because academic institutions are governed by Title IX. This law, passed in 1972, encouraged schools to eliminate sexual discrimination and harassment. That was a noble goal. However, by tying federal funds to a school's willingness to prosecute such behaviors, the government created a built-in incentive for colleges and universities to prosecute sexual misconduct aggressively, sometimes too aggressively.
Often, in fact, because they aren't governed by the U.S. judicial system, colleges don't feel like it's necessary to safeguard defendant rights the way a court of law does. Schools regularly deny students basic due process rights such as the right to a hearing and the right to cross-examine witnesses. In addition, most schools use a “preponderance of evidence” standard rather than the stricter “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to determine guilt. Essentially, this means the school must only prove an incident is “more likely than not” to have occurred in order to find a student guilty.
When coupled with the over-zealousness of the MeToo movement, schools' willingness to prosecute any and every allegation creates a sort of perfect storm in which innocent defendants can sometimes find themselves fighting an uphill battle to prove that innocence.
Penalties are Real
Of course, students are, to a degree, protected by being in school. If you're accused of sexual misconduct, for example, you aren't normally facing prison time (though cases do sometimes wind up in court as well). This is yet another reason you may be tempted not to take your case seriously.
College sanctions, though, are very real. They can include probation, suspension, even expulsion. Often expulsion comes with a transcript notation explaining the reason for your dismissal. That notation can prevent you from enrolling anywhere else, meaning your academic career is basically over. The most recent statistics show that a college graduate makes almost $20,000 more a year than high school graduates. That's $750,000 over the course of a lifetime. In short, the penalties for a guilty verdict in a sexual misconduct case are every bit as serious as those in a court of law.
In addition, your school may even suspend you while they investigate the claim. This means that, even though you are perfectly innocent, your academic career could be interrupted, putting your graduation date in doubt.
You Need Joseph D. Lento on Your Side
You may be tempted to ignore the sexual misconduct charges against you or not take them as seriously as needed, especially if they show up from your long-forgotten past. Don't. The moment you are charged, call attorney Joseph D. Lento. Joseph D. Lento is an expert in student disciplinary cases. He knows how to get you the due process rights you deserve. He's handled hundreds of cases of sexual misconduct across the nation and will fight to ensure you get the very best possible outcome.
For more information, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.