The recent criminal conviction and subsequent six-month sentence imposed on a Stanford student for sexual assault has heightened the national conversation on the issue of campus sexual assault. While no institution is immune from incidents of assault, including the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, the way in which alleged assaults are reported, and how they are dealt with by local police and the university’s administration, may vary greatly. Due to the increased scrutiny and public awareness, university and safety officials are likely to zealously investigate and pursue sanctions for any alleged sex offenses on campus, making experienced, effective legal representation for the accused more important than ever. Since students may be prosecuted in criminal courts or adjudicated internally through campus disciplinary proceedings, representation by an attorney well-versed in both types of proceedings is highly recommended.
New Method of Reporting Data Puts Spotlight on Campus Rape
The federal Clery Act requires all public and private colleges and universities which participate in federal student aid programs to report data regarding campus safety and sexual violence. Although the law has been in existence since 1990, recent amendments change the way that forcible sex offenses are reported. Previously, all sex offenses were reported in one category. Now, as recent federal campus safety data shows, sex offenses are now broken down into two separate categories of forcible and non-forcible, with further detailed reporting in each category. Forcible sex offenses include categories such as rape and fondling, while non-forcible sex offenses include incest and statutory rape.
New Data Reporting Puts University of Virginia High on the List
A recent Washington Post analysis of over 1,300 institutions ranked the University of Virginia (UVA) as number five among the universities with the highest total number of rape reports on their main campuses in 2014. Stanford (the site of a recent high-profile campus rape conviction) was number ten. When the data was analyzed at a rate according to population, however, neither UVA nor Stanford were in the top ten. According to federal campus safety data, UVA, with an enrollment of over 23,000, received 39 reports of sexual assault in 2014, compared to 26 in 2013 and 11 in 2012.
What is not clear is whether there was an absolute increase in the numbers of sexual assault compared to years prior; or if reporting methods or prioritization of this issue by UVA contributed to the increase.
Campus disciplinary hearings are unique with the distinctive rules and procedures that govern such proceedings, and those facing allegations should consult with experienced attorneys. If you or your child is facing charges of assault, harassment, or honor code violations at the University of Virginia or any institution throughout Virginia, call Rhonda Quagliana of St. John, Bowling, Lawrence & Quagliana, LLP at 434-296-7138.