Brandeis University in Waltham is the latest college to come under scrutiny by the United States Education Department for the handling of sexual assault complaints involving its students. The university is the 10th school in Massachusetts and one of more than 75 in the country to be investigated by the U.S. Dept. of Education according to WCVB.
According to reports (initially published by The Boston Globe), the investigation is centered on a student’s allegation that the school wrongly and unfairly found him responsible for sexual misconduct this past spring and subsequently disciplined him.
While Brandeis spokesman Bill Schaller did not comment directly about that particular investigation, he acknowledged that the school had already taken initiatives to prevent and respond to sexual assault complaints, including opening a rape crisis center, hiring a psychological counselor who specializes in trauma and sexual violence, and relocating its office of sexual assault services and prevention to a more central location on campus. According to WCVB, the university conducted bystander-intervention training for students and created an informational website and distributed resource guides to students, faculty, and staff to increase awareness of sexual assault services and prevention efforts.
This past May the Department of Education began an investigation of 55 campuses for complaints that they possibly violated rules governing the handling of sexual violence and harassment cases. Included in that list are Amherst College, Boston University, Emerson College, Harvard College, Harvard Law School, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Berklee College of Music, Hampshire College, UMass Dartmouth, and Brandeis University.
While more attention has been drawn toward sexual assaults on college campuses, they continue to be a growing issue. According to a report released in January 2014 by the White House, about 20% of female college students have been a victim of sexual assault yet only 1 in 8 will report it.
While sexual assault is a serious crime typically handled by law enforcement, what many victims do not realize is that aside from filing criminal charges against their attacker, they may also be eligible to file a civil claim against the perpetrator or institution employing the perpetrator. What that means is the schools at which the alleged attacker is enrolled has the responsibility to thoroughly investigate the incident and administer the necessary disciplinary action.
At the law firm of Altman & Altman, though our attorneys do not prosecute offenders for crimes, we may be able to counsel victims and their families who wish to file a claim for compensation due to the abuse. While victims may believe it is impossible to collect compensation against their attacker since the abuser may have little or no assets, there are instances where parties who did not play an active part in the abuse will be civilly liable because they had a duty to investigate the incident and administer appropriate punishment, or they did not do their duty to prevent the incident. Cases like this may go in conjunction with negligent security cases.
If you or a loved one was the victim of a sexual crime, call the law offices of Altman & Altman to discuss your rights with an experienced Boston Civil Litigation Attorney. Our experienced team of civil litigation attorneys understands the hardships victims and their families face after this type of incident, and we will stand by your side throughout the entire process and aggressively pursue your lawsuit against all liable parties. In addition to the outstanding legal counsel you will receive, our firm has access to some of the finest psychological and medical professionals in the Commonwealth. We have represented hundreds of individuals and have recovered millions of dollars in settlements, claims, and jury awards on behalf of our clients. Our attorneys are available around the clock to answer any questions you have about your case, and all initial consultations are free and completely confidential.