WASHINGTON / October 28, 2016 – A report issued today spotlights a recent spate of lawsuits against universities, and calls on college administrators to stop the use of so-called “victim-centered” investigations to probe allegations of campus sexual assault. The report concludes such methods are “inconsistent with the most basic notions of fairness, repudiate the presumption of innocence, and are likely to lead to wrongful determinations of guilt, thereby increasing schools’ liability exposure.”
Titled “Victim-Centered Investigations: New Liability Risk for Colleges and Universities,” the report analyses 18 lawsuits filed by students who had been accused of sexual misconduct, and in which the judge ruled in favor of the accused student. In all 18 cases, students alleged the university committed investigational improprieties. The paper classifies the investigational flaws into 10 categories such as “Incomplete/Inadequate Collection of Evidence” and “Overt Bias/Predetermination of Guilt.” (1)
The report also highlights the recent Office for Civil Rights determination against Wesley College of Delaware. According to the OCR, the college did not conduct any meaningful investigation of the accused student’s perspective. The Washington Post concluded, “In this case, the OCR found virtually everything wrong and therefore, a violation of Title IX’s protections against discrimination.”
“Victim-centered” methods abandon traditional notions of impartiality and objectivity. They instead call on investigators to presume that “all sexual assault cases are valid unless established otherwise by investigative findings” (2). Harvard Law School professor Jeannie Suk describes the victim-centered concept as an extreme “near-religious teaching” that is likely to discredit future rape victims (3). An Expert Panel composed of attorneys and professional investigators recently rejected “victim-centered” methods, calling for them to be replaced by “justice-centered” approaches (4).
SAVE has developed a model bill titled the Campus Equality, Fairness, and Transparency Act (CEFTA). The bill mandates the use of “justice-centered” investigations that would require campus investigators to “discharge their duties with objectivity and impartiality” (5). More information about victim-centered investigations is available (6).
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) is working for effective and fair solutions to campus sexual assault: www.saveservices.org