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Your word versus hers: Dealing with accusations of campus sexual assault

In recent years, colleges and universities across the country have become hyper-vigilant about sexual assault on campus. These institutions don't want the lawsuits and damaging public-relations fallout of a sexual encounter gone wrong.

While efforts to prevent and punish sexual assault are highly commendable, at times, they go too far. The public stigma surrounding rape is so harsh that people often assume guilt rather than innocence from the moment allegations surface. Some schools have recently come under attack for automatically siding with alleged victims, essentially depriving the accused of a fair shot at exonerating themselves.

It's easy to forget that not every allegation of rape or sexual assault is clear-cut. There are rarely witnesses, so these cases often come down to his word versus hers. False or exaggerated allegations can take an extreme toll on the accused, leading to expulsion, criminal charges, a permanently damaged reputation and a shattered future.

Two easy ways to protect yourself

If you're a college student or parent of a college student facing accusations of sexual assault, you have important choices ahead. You could be subjected to a one-sided investigation by the university disciplinary board. Even if the police aren't yet involved, they may be soon. How you deal with this delicate situation can make a big difference in your life going forward.

Here are two simple ways to protect yourself:

  • Remember that what you say can and will be used against you. You should assume that anything you say - whether to a university official, student newspaper or on social media - could end up in the hands of a police officer or prosecutor. The time will come for your voice to be heard. But you should never try to talk your way out of a sticky situation - especially without first speaking with a lawyer and understanding your options
  • Get a lawyer involved immediately. When it seems like everyone else is turned against you, a defense lawyer may be your only ally. You should choose an attorney who is familiar not only with university disciplinary procedures but also with criminal defense and civil rights. All of these areas may play a role in protecting your rights.

At NachtLaw, we have the well-rounded experience necessary to fight for you. Learn more about how we can help you avoid further damage and get your life back on track.

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