Campus Sexual Assault

Landmark Decision Ensures Victims of Campus Sexual Assault Remain Protected by Title IX

On March 24, 2015, in two long-awaited companion court rulings, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled that Title IX’s civil rights standards for addressing sexual assault on campus were not weakened by the 2013 Campus SaVE Act.

With this decision, colleges and universities—many of which are already under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights—cannot rely on Congress’ language in the Campus SaVE Act to deviate from Title IX’s longstanding requirement that schools apply “prompt and equitable” policies and procedures to ensure the effective redress of violence against women. “Equitable” means that gender–based violence must be treated exactly the same as violence based on any other protected category such as race and national origin.

This lawsuit, which was filed by the Marsh Law Firm in 2014, forced all schools to adopt the preponderance of evidence standard which properly values the word of a woman as equal to that of all other students on campus.

In it’s decision, the Court conclusively rejected any interpretation of the SaVE Act which undermines Title IX’s well–established standards. Quite simply, the Court found that the 2013 [Campus SaVE Act] amendments to portions of the Clery Act…can have “no effect on Title IX.”

Noting that this lawsuit was critically important in preventing the SaVE Act from weakening Title IX, renowned civil rights attorney Wendy Murphy explained that the ruling “makes violence against women on campus much easier to prove than it was under the SaVE Act. This decision will greatly enhance women’s equality and safety in higher education. More than forty–five years after Title IX’s enactment, it’s about time.”

Marsh Law Firm partner James R. Marsh, agreed. “This ruling sends a clear message that a college or university cannot rely on the SaVE Act to weaken or diminish the rights of victims of sexual violence or sexual harassment. Victims are entitled to all the protections afforded by Title IX and nothing less is acceptable.”

Noting that he is frequently contacted by students from across the country, Marsh added, “we are aware that a few schools continue to tell victims that promptness and equity are no longer required under Title IX because of the SaVE Act. Those schools should read today’s decision carefully and follow its mandate: the Campus SaVE Act’s weaker legal standards cannot be used in the redress of violence against women on campus because the court ruled that SaVE cannot and does not mitigate or diminish Title IX.”

Murphy and Marsh concluded, “We are grateful for the Court’s decision and we hope and expect that all schools will heed today’s unequivocal message that the Campus SaVE Act does not allow women to be treated as second class citizens on campus, especially when they endure the most severe expression of sex discrimination—gender–based violence. We are prepared to file as many lawsuits as it takes to make sure Title IX standards—and only Title IX standards—are applied on every campus.”

Rape on Campus: University of Virginia Rape and its Aftermath

As attorneys who represent victims of campus sexual assault and rape, we applaud survivors like Jackie for their strength and courage in telling their stories.

Marsh Law Firm represents Stacy who is profiled in this article in Rolling Stone. Our case was one of only fourteen in UVA history where the perpetrator was found guilty. Stacy’s perpetrator was suspended. It’s unlikely that many of the other thirteen guilty perpetrators were even suspended. None of the fourteen guilty perpetrators were expelled.

The assistance and advice of an attorney is essential for victims to ensure the integrity and fairness of the campus disciplinary system, the thoroughness and appropriateness of the questions asked, and the pros and cons of the myriad of choices—criminal, civil, and disciplinary—for achieving some measure of justice.

Please contact us if you were raped or sexually assaulted on campus. Our lawyers are experienced with the civil, criminal, and disciplinary options facing victims and survivors.

If you were raped or sexually assaulted, please read this post on our Title9 blog What to do if you are sexually assaulted or raped.

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