If you are a student who is currently in attendance at a higher education institution, chances are you've worked incredibly hard to get there. Many students have spent their entire lifetime preparing to get into a university or college - oftentimes, a school they've had their sights set on since they were children. A large abundance of a college student's time was once dedicated to studying for college entrance exams, working for grades that are worthy of college acceptance, and becoming the best student or athlete they can to be granted an academic or athletic scholarship to the school of their dreams.
In the event that this goal is accomplished, everything that a student worked endlessly for can be jeopardized, in a moment, by a sexual assault accusation. Since these types of cases are hardly swept under the rug as they were in previous years, schools now undergo great pressure from state and federal governments to immediately investigate, reprimand and convict students for perceived instances of sexual assault across campuses. If these schools fail to appropriately do so, they are faced with relentless repercussions: the loss of all federal funding.
With so much at stake for these institutions, investigation and mitigation processes are rushed, periodically leaving innocent students to suffer the often predestined outcome of expulsion and being labeled a rapist amongst their peers. Unbeknownst to the accused, they could have received protections they weren't granted by a school, that they would have experienced within the nation's criminal justice system.
If you are a college student who has been accused of a sexual assault, there are a few things you should expect:
A Presumption of Guilt
Unfortunately, merely being accused of a sexual assault seemingly discards the well-known mantra of “innocent until proven guilty” in the minds of counterparts, staff, and school authorities. When facing these types of allegations, it's important to acknowledge the harsh reality that you are already perceived as guilty to many people. Therefore, it shouldn't surprise you when your friends, professors, campus staff and higher-ups begin to operate in a fashion that affirms this notion.
A No-Contact Order
The U.S. Department of Education has set guidelines that require each college to completely separate an accuser from the accused, even if it hasn't yet been proven that the accused is guilty. This means that if you are facing allegations of sexual assault, you will more than likely receive a no-contact order. This order consists of restrictions imposed on a student facing sexual assault allegations. Violating this order garners harsh consequences.
Here's an example of some of the restrictions imposed upon the accused:
- Orders to not attend classes with an accuser
- Orders to avoid campus dining facilities
- Orders to avoid all interactions with fraternities and sororities
- Orders to cease interactions with the accuser's friends or people he/she may know
- Orders to stay away from campus entirely (except for academic purposes)
One of the most frustrating things about disciplinary tactics in colleges is that there is no one, uniform method of resolving these incidents. Each school is responsible for drafting its own system, and oftentimes the accused is left out of the loop. This is why it's important for you, as an accused student, to become familiar with school guidelines and principles when facing sexual assault allegations.