Retaliation for College Sexual Misconduct Allegations

What Is Retaliation?

To retaliate is to take some action harming another because the other took action, harming oneself. Retaliation isn't just hurting someone. It is hurting someone because they hurt you. When a complainant accuses a student of college sexual misconduct, retaliation would be for the accused student to harm the complainant in some way because of the allegations, whether the allegations are true or false. Retaliation can involve any kind of action adversely affecting the complainant but may take any one or combination of these many forms:

  • violence, whether slaps, shoves, or beatings;
  • threats, warnings, or suggestions of violence;
  • sexual violence, whether assault or harassment;
  • removing personal effects and locking out of shared housing;
  • theft, conversion, damage to, or defacement of personal property;
  • interfering with online access such as locking out of resources or groups;
  • slanderous or disparaging posts or remarks diminishing reputation.

Why Do Accused Students Retaliate?

A student whom a complainant falsely accuses of sexual misconduct may sometimes retaliate because the lying or fabricating complainant has unjustly harmed the accused student. Vengeance, as in an-eye-for-an-eye, a-tooth-for-a-tooth justice, can simply feel good, especially when the false accusation has already done serious harm. Yet retaliation can also happen when a complainant justly accuses a responsible student of sexual misconduct. In that case, the justly accused student's retaliation isn't meant to right a wrong but to punish and discourage the complainant and to conceal the wrong. Retaliation, in either case, is wrong, although retaliation in the latter case reflects much more poorly on the justly accused student.

Why Is Retaliation Wrong?

To spell it out, retaliation for a report, true or false, of college sexual misconduct is wrong because it frustrates the process of discovering, punishing, discouraging, and preventing that misconduct. Retaliation for a true report of sexual misconduct is a direct attack on the college or university's effort to protect students and right wrongs. A school is likely to severely sanction such a retaliator. Retaliation for a false report of sexual misconduct may be more of an attack against the lying complainant's falsehood than against the school's reporting system, but it takes the determination of truth into the retaliator's own hands, which the school cannot accept without distorting its reporting system.

How Do Schools Treat Retaliation?

Colleges and universities maintain elaborate sexual misconduct policies. Those policies clearly and firmly prohibit retaliation. Title IX sexual misconduct policies must do so by federal regulation. But even for non-Title IX sexual misconduct, schools uniformly prohibit retaliation. The anti-retaliation principle is that powerful. The University of Arizona's Student Code of Conduct, prohibiting certain forms of non-Title IX sexual misconduct, is an example. It expressly prohibits retaliation and then, to make the prohibition clear, goes on to prohibit “interfering with any university review, investigative or disciplinary process, including but not limited to tampering with physical evidence or inducing a witness to provide false information or to withhold information.” It also prohibits “Any attempt to commit or conceal an act of misconduct prohibited by these rules is subject to sanctions to the same extent as completed acts.”

Whom Do Schools Protect Against Retaliation?

Colleges and universities protect more than just the complaining party against retaliation. They also protect any witness or other person participating in the sexual misconduct proceeding. Indeed, those policies also protect the accused student against retaliation when the accused student participates in the proceeding in the student's own defense. The University of Kansas's Complaint Process enforcing its Sexual Harassment Policy is an example, stating:

All parties to a complaint (complainant, respondent, witnesses, and appropriate administrators or supervisors) will be informed that retaliation by an individual or an individual's associates against any person who files a complaint or any person who participates in the investigation of a complaint is prohibited. Individuals who engage in retaliation are subject to disciplinary action.

What Happens If I Retaliate?

In their sexual misconduct policies, colleges and universities treat retaliation as a violation of school policy. Schools will find responsible and sanction an accused student who is innocent of the charged sexual misconduct but who retaliates nonetheless. As the saying goes, the cover-up can be worse than the crime. Indeed, the cover-up, in the form of retaliation, may be the only violation. If you face a sexual misconduct charge of which you are innocent, then don't hand the school a violation by taking any action whatsoever that the school may interpret as retaliation. These sanctions that schools commonly apply to sexual misconduct also apply to retaliation, even if retaliation is the only violation:

  • warning;
  • oral or written reprimand;
  • counseling or education;
  • community service;
  • bar from sports, clubs, and recreation;
  • suspension; and
  • expulsion.

What Should I Do Instead of Retaliate?

You are not without remedy if you face false charges that are interfering with your education and damaging your reputation. College and university sexual misconduct procedures prohibit making false charges. The chances are that an accuser making false charges is violating your school's sexual misconduct policy. Your school's procedures may authorize you to counterclaim over those false charges, to hold the lying complainant responsible without your retaliation. Even if you cannot or do not counterclaim, the school may sanction the false accuser on its own, as a result of its investigation and your efforts proving the allegations false. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. The lying complainant may be seeking to harm you but is only harming himself or herself. Just be sure that you have the expert representation of national academic attorney Joseph Lento to help you defeat the false charges.

Retain Premier Representation

Don't retaliate, even over a viciously false report. Instead, help the school's system for resolving sexual-misconduct allegations do its work. Your best step is to retain national academic attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm to help you participate in the school's investigation and resolution process. Any charge of sexual misconduct is serious, threatening your educational, personal, and career goals. A false or exaggerated charge can be every bit as serious as meritorious charges. If you retaliate, your actions will make your position significantly harder to defend. Instead, have expert representation help you prove your innocence, disprove false and exaggerated charges, and ensure that any outcome is fair to you while holding accountable complainants making false charges. Premier representation can help you successfully defend and defeat college sexual misconduct charges. Retain national academic attorney Joseph Lento today by calling 888.535.3686 or going online.

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