Content Warning: This article discusses sexual assault on California college and university campuses, which may be upsetting to some readers.
If you have survived a sexual assault on a college campus, you may be wondering where to turn for justice. Because university administrators are typically very concerned about the reputation of their school, they may not always have the best interests of the sexual assault survivor in mind during an investigation into an alleged sexual assault or rape. Local law enforcement officers may not always be sensitive to the needs of sexual assault survivors, and district attorneys may not always be willing or able to prosecute sexual assault charges in the criminal courts.
After a sexual assault on a college or university campus, you may need to pursue justice in civil court by filing a lawsuit against your abuser or the university where your assault took place. Recent high-profile lawsuits, including those filed against Dr. George Tyndall and the University of Southern California, demonstrate that it is possible to take legal action against alleged perpetrators of campus sexual assault and the universities where the misconduct took place. Unfortunately for some survivors of sexual assault, this may be one of the only ways to have their voices heard.
This post discusses which people or entities you may be able to file a lawsuit against after a sexual assault on a college campus, but it is not a substitute for getting legal advice from an experienced attorney. A California sexual harassment lawyer can help you understand your rights and counsel you through the aftermath of a campus sexual assault.
You Can Sue the Abuser
After a sexual assault on campus, you should be able to file a claim directly against your alleged abuser, so long as you bring the claim within the statute of limitations. Although it is possible to seek compensation directly from your abuser, this can be problematic if the perpetrator was a college student, professor, or university employee without significant financial resources. In addition, certain civil claims can be discharged in bankruptcy; thus, your abuser may ultimately be able to avoid financial responsibility for the harm he or she has caused.
Your sexual harassment lawyer can work with you to determine a strategy for seeking the compensation you deserve. Often, this means also filing a claim against the college or university where the sexual assault took place.
You May Be Able to Sue the College or University
The claims you may file against the college or university where the assault took place depends on whether the college was public or private. This is because the legal system treats state-run universities differently from private colleges.
Public Colleges and Universities
At a public university that is run by the state and receives federal funds, special statutes apply to the university. On such statute is Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (commonly referred to as “Title IX”), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities receiving that receive financial assistance from the federal government. Under certain circumstances, sexual harassment of students can be a form of discrimination prohibited by Title IX. This statute gives survivors of sexual assault certain legal protections and a possible cause of action against the public college or university.
In addition, the United States Constitution applies to state-run institutions. This means that there are certain First Amendment, due process, anti-discrimination, and other constitutional protections that apply to students at public universities. But this doesn’t mean that students always prevail in their lawsuits against a public university after a sexual assault. Whether a university is liable for a sexual assault depends on many factors, including whether the school officials involved in the handling of the incident are protected by qualified immunity as a result of their status as a government official.
If you suffered a sexual assault at one of California’s public university campuses, contact an experienced sexual harassment lawyer to discuss your rights. Only a lawyer can tell you whether you have a viable claim against the public college or university.
Private Colleges and Universities
Private colleges and universities are treated very differently by the courts. Because the United States Constitution typically does not apply to private entities, survivors of sexual assault on private college or university campuses cannot raise some of the constitutional claims discussed above. Moreover, the federal statutory protections for students may not apply.
If you suffered a sexual assault at one of California’s private schools, you can be able to pursue claims against the university school under theories such as breach of contract, statutory civil sexual harassment, unfair competition, fraud, and negligence. Another legal theory is known as negligent supervision, hiring, and retention might apply to a public university who knew or should have known about misconduct (or the possibility of misconduct) by one of its employees, and but failed to do the right thing prevent or address the misconduct.
An experienced sexual harassment lawyer will evaluate the facts of your case to determine whether your private college or university may be financially liable for the pain, suffering, and other losses you’ve incurred as a result of a sexual assault.
There May Be Other Responsible Parties
Depending on the facts of your case, there may be other people or entities that are legally responsible for your pain and suffering. This might include athletic associations, fraternal panhellenic (or “Greek life”) organizations, and third-party service providers who had with contracts with the college or university.
Your sexual harassment lawyer will want to know more about the facts surrounding the incident so that he or she can determine whether other parties may be liable for the damages you’ve incurred as a result of a campus sexual assault.
GJELL’s California Lawyers Represent Campus Sexual Assault Survivors
If you endured sexual harassment, assault, or rape during your time on a California college or university campus, our compassionate victims’ rights lawyers may be able to help. To talk with an experienced California sexual harassment lawyer who represents survivors of sexual assault, call GJELL at 1 (866) 290-1656 for a free and confidential consultation today.
Sexual Abuse on College Campuses