Defending against sexual assault charges

While every charge of sexual assault should be treated seriously, the accused has the right to provide proof of innocence.

National campaigns are drawing attention to the dangers young women face when they attend college, particularly during their first year. Studies indicate that 19 percent of freshmen women say they are the victims of rape or attempted rape, CNN News reports.

Now, universities are being urged to toughen their sexual assault policies and procedures to protect girls. However, according to an NPR story, many believe the results may be preventing the accused from defending themselves, leading to unjust expulsions.

Identifying consent

Consent is the word of the day when it comes to determining whether a sexual encounter becomes a sexual offense, and the way a university defines consent and assault can make all the difference. For example, Arizona State University's sexual violence policies state that consent must be verbal and given freely by a sober person.

Based on this information, a male student could be found guilty of a sexual offense if he has a consensual physical encounter with a young woman who has been drinking, and she later claims she did not invite the contact. This may seem like a far-fetched conclusion at first, but all over the country, young men are claiming they have been falsely accused in situations such as these.

Assuming guilt

The issue is not that there are stricter policies in place to prevent sexual assault, or that the young men are being reported. It only becomes problematic when a person is accused of a crime and is given no opportunity to defend himself, and this is what NPR reports is happening on college campuses across the United States. According to the story, at least 50 students are claiming they have been treated as guilty until proven innocent in court, rather than the reverse.

In many of these cases, universities have taken action and expelled students from school without allowing them to hire an attorney and provide proof of their innocence.

Preventing conviction

When a person is convicted of a sexual offense, the penalties often last a lifetime. Sexual offenders have their residence and other personal information published on the sex offender registry, which is available to the public. Many of those who are found guilty are unable to secure a job or a home as a result.

No student should suffer serious and permanent damages based on an accusation that is unfounded. Anyone who ends up in this situation has the right to a lawyer. An experienced criminal law attorney may be able to help a young person gather the necessary evidence to have the charges dropped.

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