A slew of allegations, including claims of domestic violence assault, has become even more complex because they happened in college, where federal laws provide for an independent system to decide cases.
Several women have come forward and accused a man of sexual assault, rape, and physical assault during their time at the University of Maine at Farmington. Several of them filed police reports, but the district attorney decided not to pursue criminal charges.
So the women went to the school’s administration, instead, and initiated proceedings against the man under the federal civil rights law, Title IX.
Title IX aims to promote equal opportunity to receive higher education by forbidding gender or sexual discrimination. It requires colleges to respond to allegations of sexual assault that imperil a student’s education and threatens to strip the school of its federal funding if it does not follow through.
Title IX investigation and hearings, however, are conducted by the school rather than by law enforcement or judges. To no one’s surprise, those hearings are rife with serious procedural problems and can differ drastically from school to school. To add to the confusion, students accused of a Title IX violation only have to be found guilty by a preponderance of the evidence, rather than beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Title IX claims led to the male student’s interim suspension from UMF and ended with a finding that he harassed several of the women. That finding, though, was overturned on appeal.
The investigations and hearings have left everyone involved angry.
The women who filed reports of domestic violence and sexual assault and initiated the Title IX process say UMF didn’t do enough to protect their rights or punish the student.
The male student, on the other hand, claims that UMF violated Title IX by discriminating against him. He says the school ignored evidence that he was the one who was sexually assaulted and claims that his suspension from school caused him emotional distress.
One of the sources of the problems and confusion is the fact that the administrative proceedings under Title IX have a lower burden of proof. By allowing for convictions – and penalties – if a violation probably happened, rather than happened beyond a reasonable doubt, it opens the floodgates to finger-pointing and competing narratives that rely solely on the speaker’s credibility as proof that their side of the story is the right one.
That’s why the most telling detail about the whole story is the decision by the district attorney’s office to not to pursue charges. They looked at the unfolding situation, saw that they would never have the evidence to prove a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and stepped away from the fight.
Allegations of domestic violence take on a completely different tone when they happen in college because of the possibility of administrative investigations under Title IX. Regardless, if you have been accused of domestic violence in Portland, Saco, or Biddeford, you need legal representation to defend your rights. Call the criminal defense lawyers at Maine Criminal Defense Group at (207) 571-8146 or contact them online.
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