Legal Options for Campus Sexual Assault Survivors: Campus, Criminal, and Civil Systems

Legal Options for Campus Sexual Assault Survivors: Campus, Criminal, and Civil Systems


♬ original sound – LauraLDunnJD

As a campus sexual assault survivor, it’s crucial to understand the legal avenues available for you to seek justice and support after experiencing sexual violence.There are three primary legal avenues:

  • The Criminal System
  • The Campus System
  • The Civil System

Each option can be pursued separately or in combination to address different aspects of your matter. This article will provide insights into these options and you should speak to an attorney if you want to be specifically guided on you can navigate them effectively.

The Criminal System

When it comes to pursuing justice, the criminal system should be your first consideration. Promptly reporting to police increases the chances of holding the offender accountable, preventing further harm, and safeguarding vulnerable populations.

The promptness of a report is the most significant factor in predicting  whether a survivorreceive legal justice

While it is understandable that survivors require time to process their trauma and make decisions, it is crucial to acknowledge that the longer the reporting is delayed, the lower the chances of attaining justice diminish. If you wish to pursue justice through the criminal system, especially in cases involving cyber harassment, revenge pornography, or child sexual abuse (CSA) images, it is strongly advised to report as soon as possible to law enforcement. Tangible evidence can significantly support your case, and a criminal investigation can be instrumental in gathering such evidence promptly to preserve the same.

The Campus Process

The second option available to survivors is the campus process, which involves reporting the incident to the Title IX Coordinator and participating in an investigation and resolution process. However, it is essential to be cautious going through this process and find a good advisor. Many educational institutions have their own “advocates” who may not necessarily prioritize your best interests, as they work for the school. It is important to seek out someone who genuinely supports and represents you during this process, whether a local victim advocate or attorney such as at L.L. Dunn Law Firm.

The Civil Option

The civil option is often overlooked due to misconceptions about its accessibility or considerations about the financial capability of the offender. Civil proceedings primarily focus on seeking financial compensation for the harm you have suffered. It’s important to evaluate whether the offender has the resources to provide substantial compensation. If the individual lacks financial capacity, the cost of legal proceedings might outweigh any potential recovery through a lawsuit.

To determine if the civil option is suitable for your case, it is strongly recommended to consult with an attorney in the state where the incident occurred who specializes in sexual assault cases. Do not wait! Waiting until after the campus or criminal processes have concluded, or years have passed while a survivor focuses on healing, can limit your legal options. Taking prompt action is crucial, and seeking advice early on can help develop an effective strategy tailored to your unique circumstances. 

You don’t have to know whether you want to take legal action to get legal advice – so seek a consultation early!

As a campus sexual assault survivor seeking justice, understanding and exploring your legal options is essential. The three primary avenues available—the Campus System, the Criminal System, and the Civil System—offer different approaches to address the harm you have experienced. Remember, prompt reporting is a vital factor for all three that significantly influences the likelihood of receiving justice through any of these systems.

Seeking guidance from an attorney, advocate, or advisor who is knowledgeable about all three systems can provide valuable insights and help you navigate the complex legal landscape. While the decision to pursue legal action may take time, it is important to develop a strategy promptly to maximize the chances of a positive outcome.          

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual violence and are seeking legal services, contact us for a confidential consultation. 

Related Articles: 

Starting a Title IX Sexual Misconduct Complaint: A Quick Guide

Preparing for a Title IX Hearing

Changing the Narrative: Sexual Violence Language

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