FAMILIES ADVOCATING FOR CAMPUS EQUALITY
FAMILIES ADVOCATING FOR CAMPUS EQUALITY

Parent of a Falsely Accused Student

Behind every FACE, a story.

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The parent of a falsely accused student:  

 

I cannot share details about my son’s case because of a confidentiality agreement with the university. There were no criminal charges filed against him and we haven’t filed a lawsuit, so there is no public information about his case. His story is the same one that is happening all too frequently – drunken consensual sex that the young woman (usually many months later) decides was not consensual because she was drinking. Even though the accused man may have been in a worse state of intoxication and the accusing woman may have been sexually aggressive, if she later decides she was unable to consent, in today’s climate on a college campus the accused student will essentially be guilty until proven innocent. His ability to consent and use good judgment while intoxicated will be assumed. He will be held responsible for his drunken behavior and his accuser’s. I guess the sexes aren’t equal after all. In a fair world, if both parties are intoxicated, they are equally unable to consent and are therefore both victims of assault.

To be clear, I absolutely support and applaud those who want to be tough on college campus sexual assault. Rapists and sexual assailants, guilty of forced sex or sex with an incapacitated person, should be behind bars. Even though there were no criminal charges in my son’s case, he was expelled for “sexual assault.” The damage this stigma and these charges cause to a young man’s psyche and future cannot be overstated.

We had no idea our son was going through this. He was ashamed, scared, knew that the sex was consensual and although he and his accuser had both been drinking, eye witnesses said she did not appear to be overly intoxicated and certainly not incapacitated. My son was therefore more concerned about sanctions for underage drinking. His “advisor” during the student judicial proceeding was a friend. They both were clueless about college judicial proceedings and had no idea what they were up against in a post “Dear Colleague” letter world. The university ignored conflicts in the accuser’s account, undisputed testimony supporting my son’s account and refused to consider critical testimony regarding the credibility of his accuser’s story. There was, of course, no right to confront his accuser or cross examine. No recording of the proceeding was made. My son was not advised to seek counsel or contact his family. We found out he was going through this when we received a phone call that he was suicidal and hospitalized. We hired an attorney at that point, but it was too late. He was expelled a couple of weeks after protests took place on the steps of the his school’s campus judicial affairs building claiming his adjudicator was not tough enough on sexual assault cases and just as Title IX complaints were filed against his school. The school received national media attention for the protests and complaints.

During the meeting in which my son was told he was expelled, he also was told that he could continue to register for classes pending his appeal (even though in this decision he was called “a threat to campus”). This gave us hope there was a chance the decision would be overturned or the sanction reduced. Over the course of the summer he was able to complete all the classes he needed for his degree. In September the appeals board rubberstamped the decision to expel him. He now has an expulsion for sexual assault on his record and has completed all coursework for a degree. He will never be able to get a college degree under these circumstances. We have spent over $120,000 in legal fees and full college tuition for nothing.

Our son had never had so much as a parking ticket prior to this decision. He was attending his dream school. He was the third generation of our family to attend the school. He had worked hard all through high school and done all the right things to get there. Great grades, leader, team captain, community service, well thought of by students, faculty, coaches, employers. In one fell swoop, his school crippled him for life. He will never be able to apply for the jobs he had hoped for without a college degree. I can’t begin to tell you the emotional toll it has taken on him. He has been in therapy and is trying to move on, but the damage has been enormous.

It has been the most lonely, horrible nightmare we have ever faced as a family. If you haven’t read “A Parent’s Perspective” on the Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE) website, I hope you will. I could have written it. We all have the same story. One of the most difficult things, is that no one, not even family, understands that even when the sex was consensual, the young man can be expelled for assault just because alcohol was involved, while the young woman will suffer no consequences. I live in fear that my son’s name will become public with “sexual assault” attached to it.

At every point along the way in this nightmare, I thought and told my son, we will find reasonable people and we will get this right. We haven’t found that person yet. I am alarmed that U.S. senators are not standing up for an American citizen’s fundamental right to due process and the belief that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty. Students facing expulsion or long-term suspension deserve these basic rights. I never would have believed this could happen in the United States. I grew up during the 60’s and 70’s and believed in equality for women and men and the enormous importance of civil rights. Women fought to be considered strong, independent, and equal. We wanted to make our own decisions and be responsible for our futures. Today, the notion that men and women can engage in the same type of behavior, yet the male is held responsible for the female is the antithesis of what we fought for. What is happening?

Criminal terminology should never be used unless rape has been proven in a court of law. We wouldn’t call anyone a “murderer” unless murder has been legally proven. No one is a “victim” until the other party is found guilty. Accused students deserve the same rights and support as accusing students. Due process could not be more important in seeking the truth when a decision has life-altering consequences. These decisions should never be made by adjudicator who has a vested interest in the university. Crime should always be investigated by the police. 


 

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