Sexual Assault Investigations at Universities Are Being Put on Hold

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As colleges and universities grapple with unexpected and indefinite closures, officials are being forced to figure out what to do with open sexual assault investigations, and find a way for students to continue to report misconduct.


According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, some colleges require the process of adjudicating sexual-assault complaints to include a a live hearing with cross examination, following a 2018 court ruling that affected colleges in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.

While administrators largely agree that many of these hearings can be held virtually, the resolution of sexual assault cases could still be delayed by a year or more.

One student, named Lexie, thought that her Title IX case against another student at her Midwestern public university would finally come to a close this month. The investigation wrapped up in January, and a hearing was scheduled for March 11. But covid-19 caused classes to be moved online, and administrators postponed the hearing until in-person classes resume over the summer, at the earliest. Lexie, however, is set to graduate in the spring.

“I just want it to be done,” she said. “It feels like I wasted my last semester of college.”

Faith Ferber, a graduate student at Rutgers University and a student-engagement organizer with the advocacy group Know Your IX, said that delaying the process prolongs the trauma for students who have already undergone a traumatic experience, which in addition to the incident itself also involves making appointments for investigative interviews, scheduling hearings, and responding to emails from the Title IX office—all while trying to keep up with classes.

She went through a Title IX investigation as an undergraduate. “I very much feel like if I knew it was going to take that long, I would never have reported it in the first place,” she said.



This really sucks, but it’s not at all surprising. All of the courts where I live have delayed trials and in some cases even arraignments are being postponed. Cases large and small won’t be decided for a long time. Obviously that’s different than a university hearing, but if the courts are getting held up, then I don’t find this at all surprising.

To anyone out there considering reporting something that has happened to you - it is always up to you whether or not to report it/pursue legal action. But the right to a speedy trial just means that the whole thing gets started quickly, not necessarily wrapped up quickly. COVID-19 or no. And it seems this applies to universities as well. Gather your people, cast protection spells, know that it can be a long haul, but isn’t always (and even if it is, it could still be completely worth it).

An interesting tidbit to add: a friend of mine often works cases involving domestic disputes. The prosecution often fails because the victim gets so exhausted by the process that they recant their accusation by the end of the trial. There are usually experts on hand to testify that this is a pattern among victims of abuse.

I don’t necessarily think trials should unfold faster. Everyone has the right to explore every step of their prosecution/defense, and that shouldn’t be rushed. What we need is better support all around for victims throughout the process.