For Colleges, Rape Cases a Legal Minefield
A closed- door encounter between two college acquaintances. Both have been drinking. One says she was raped; the other insists it was consensual. There are no other witnesses. It’s a common scenario in college sexual assault cases, and a potential nightmare to resolve. But under the 40-year-old federal gender equity law Title IX — and guidance handed down last year by the Obama administration on how to apply it — colleges can’t just turn such cases over to criminal prosecutors, who often won’t touch them anyway. Instead, they must investigate, and in campus proceedings do their best to balance the accused’s due process rights with the civil right of the victim to a safe education. Lately, though, the legal ramifications of such cases are spilling off campus, with schools caught in the middle.