We typically think of domestic violence in the context of spousal or family relationships, but it also happens quite frequently in dating relationships. The statistics regarding domestic violence occurring on college campuses alone are both eye-opening and alarming. Victims of domestic violence on campus often feel ashamed and quite helpless because it’s happening at a time when young adults are just starting to navigate the complexities of relationships and personal boundaries. Perpetrators are also coming of age and often don’t know how to control their darker impulses. And if you’re a college student in California accused of domestic violence, you could be facing serious consequences not only criminal charges, but also disciplinary action from the school that could deeply impact your educational and career prospects. Let’s look into this issue further to see what we can learn.
Prevalence of Domestic Violence on Campus
A look at the numbers reveals the scope of the problem. While domestic violence is prevalent across all demographics, the abuse rate on college campuses exceeds the national average considerably. Consider the following statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) regarding dating relationships on campus:
- One in five college women reports being sexually assaulted during their time in college (versus 1 in four women over the course of a lifetime).
- Forty-three percent of dating college women report being victims of violent or abusive behavior from their dating partners.
- More than one-third of reported attempted rapes on college campuses are categorized as “date rape.”
These numbers only confirm the bigger picture: women aged 16 to 24 are victimized by domestic violence at a rate three times the national average. Many of these victims are college students, and most are unmarried.
Given these statistics, it’s clear that college campuses can be incredibly dangerous environments for those who are in abusive relationships. And these numbers don’t even address the incidents of domestic violence occurring against male victims, roommates, or co-habitants, which can drive these statistics even higher.
Ramifications for the Accused
While acts of domestic violence on campus occur at alarming rates, the efforts to curb domestic violence on college campuses can often affect those innocent of the crime. In fact, simply being accused of domestic violence in this setting can have long-ranging impacts on a person’s life, even if the accusations are unfounded and even if they’re never actually charged with a crime. If you’re a college student accused of domestic violence, here’s a look at what you could be facing.
School Disciplinary Action/Title IX Proceedings
Title IX is a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in any federally funded education program. However, the definitions under Title IX can also extend to incidents of domestic violence between students (or between students and teachers), especially if sexual assault plays a role. Colleges and universities typically have a separate Title IX department that investigates and disciplines alleged violations according to federal regulations.
If you’re accused of domestic violence on campus, the school will likely pursue a formal investigation to determine whether they believe you are responsible for the alleged incident. If the allegations fall within the scope of Title IX, that department will typically handle the investigation; if the alleged domestic violence doesn’t meet Title IX definitions, the school will likely process it under its own Code of Conduct. In either case, if evidence suggests that you committed domestic violence against someone on campus, there’s a high likelihood of disciplinary action from the school, including suspension or expulsion, which ends your academic career and can hurt your future career prospects.
If you’ve been accused of committing domestic violence on campus, the alleged victim may also file for a protective order against you. This civil court order restricts your contact with the alleged victim and can even prevent you from entering certain areas or living in certain places until the matter has been sorted out. You can be served with a protective order even if no criminal charges are filed, but violating a protective order can result in criminal charges on its own. If you’re allowed to continue attending classes, the school will play a role in enforcing the protective order while you’re on campus–this, in addition to any measures they take internally to prohibit you from contact with your accuser.
Regardless of the school’s response to your case, California law is very strict when it comes to domestic violence crimes, which means you could face criminal charges. If you are found guilty of such a crime, depending on the circumstances, you could be looking at jail time and other sentences such as probation, fines, mandated counseling, etc. Due to state and federal regulations, you’ll also be prohibited from possessing a gun if you’re convicted of a domestic violence crime.
Steps to Take If You’re a College Student Accused of Domestic Violence
If you’ve been accused of domestic violence while on campus, you must take the necessary steps to protect yourself. Here are a few things that can help:
- Seek legal counsel immediately. It may be tempting to try to handle the situation on your own, but since California law leans toward protecting the accuser first, you need to have an experienced attorney in your corner who can guide you through the process and protect your rights.
- Don’t act rashly. It’s easy to react in anger or attempt to contact the accuser, but this could land you in more trouble. Instead, take a step back and assess the situation before taking further action. Avoid making public statements in defense of yourself, and avoid commenting about the allegations on social media.
- Document everything related to your case. This includes emails, phone calls, text messages, and anything else related to your accuser or the alleged incident.
For those accused of domestic violence crimes in Los Angeles (on or off campus), we offer compassionate legal representation to defend against the charges and protect your rights. Call our offices to schedule a consultation.