First, remember the old adage, “what you say can and will be used against you.” Your child should not cooperate or try to talk his way out of it. He should assume that anything he tells anybody who works for the university could end up in the hands of a police officer and a prosecutor.
In an earlier generation, unpleasant sexual encounters that were not rape, remained just that. A boy might develop a reputation as being someone to be wary of dating. Despite his rudeness or bad drunken boorish behavior, he would not be subjected to expulsion from his university or criminal charges. We live in a new era now. If a female student accuses a male student of campus sexual harassment or assault, there will probably be at least one investigation conducted by a university investigator. There may also be a separate police investigation by either a campus police department or the local police department. A lawyer is necessary to defend a campus investigation because things that your son says in defending himself could be used against him in a separate criminal case.
If you are a parent of a college age student, you may have vague memories that the feminist effort was to get “no means no” to become the rule. A woman might say no, but the man might continue claiming that she didn’t really mean it. “No means no” is actually a very clear and easy to follow rule. Today, the burden of proof has shifted. Once it is clear that some sexual activity has occurred, the burden on most campuses is for the male to clearly establish that the female consented and that she was not too drunk to consent. Claiming that the woman had too many drinks and never explicitly said “no” is not a defense, but a way to get expelled from campus in today’s environment. Police and prosecutors in some jurisdictions still apply a much more conservative approach in investigating and pursuing rape charges. However, in other jurisdictions, young men are placed on trial for rape even when a young woman has not tried to leave, has not said no, and has not yelled for help. Parents should be teaching their sons that the smart thing to do is to ask “are you comfortable?” or “are you cool with this?” multiple times throughout the interaction.
If your child has been accused of sexual assault, the first thing you should do is consult with an experienced lawyer who can guide your family through these terrifying processes.
For information or questions regarding this post contact the author, David Nacht.
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