John’s freshman year at James Madison University started out great. He did well in his classes. He made friends easily. He even started dating a fellow student. But just a couple weeks into his first semester, John’s world came crashing down. The girl he had been dating accused him of sexual assault and took her charge to the campus authorities. James Madison promptly conducted an initial hearing and found that John was “not responsible.”
And John lived happily ever after…only he didn’t. After all, this is 2018, people.
The campus hearing should have been the end of this nightmare for John, but it was far from over. The girl appealed James Madison’s initial decision and a separate appeal board called for John’s immediate suspension until 2020. After that, he could re-enroll at the university if he wished. John couldn’t just sit back and let his good name and education vanish before his eyes so he initiated a lengthy and expensive legal war against James Madison that lasted three years.
It was worth it, because he won.
Last year, a federal judge ruled in John’s favor and ordered James Madison to welcome him back. John, for obvious reasons, chose to enroll elsewhere. James Madison ruined this student’s reputation and bank account—why on Earth would he continue to throw tuition money at this wretched institution of higher education?! Thankfully, John may be able to recoup some of his lost finances. This month, a United States magistrate recommended that James Madison pay John $849,231.25 for attorney fees and litigations costs. It helps, but no amount of money can repair the emotional and psychological damage of being falsely accused of sexual assault.
John’s case is not unique. There is an entire community of mostly male college students devastated by fake accusations of assault and crappy campus tribunals. In 2013, three mothers founded a non-profit organization called Families Advocating for Campus Equality, or FACE for short. The moms, who live in different parts of the country, banded together after their sons were falsely accused of sexual misconduct at college trials. Today, FACE serves as a wealth of information and resources for all wrongly accused students and their families.
A quick read through of FACE’s horrifying testimonials reveals lives that have been utterly dismantled by fake accusations.
For example, a mother of an Occidental student woke up to a phone call from her son saying “Don’t worry Mom, I’m fine but I’ve been taken out of my dorm room and moved elsewhere. A girl and I had sex a few weeks ago she filed a complaint against me. She agreed to have sex, I have it in writing. I don’t know why she filed. Also, Mom, I’m on suicide watch.”
Another mother recounted how her son finally reached an agreement with his college after being falsely charged with rape and expelled by the school. The mom described her sons utter despair: “As you can imagine, the claim against him coupled with the lack of due process almost sent my son over the deep end. He dealt with feelings of shame and hopelessness. Weekly therapy sessions helped him cope through all of it. To this day, he does not feel comfortable discussing what happened.”
The fantastic book “The Campus Rape Frenzy: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities” shared the harrowing story of a student called Len. Len was accused of rape by a fellow university student. After a long campus trial, Len was cleared because his accuser lacked credible evidence and constantly changed her story. But the damage was already done. Len was so distraught by the trial that he dropped out of school. Today, Len suffers from severe anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The false accusation decimated his goals: “I get to college and then all my dreams and aspirations and everything go out the window a month after I get there. You feel like you’re on top of the world, and then someone just makes up something about you and that completely destroys you. It destroyed my reputation.”
No one is talking about the hell and psychological torment that these young men go through after a false accusation of sexual assault. The #MeToo movement has finally given people devastated by sexual abuse a megaphone and is swiftly making everlasting changes to how men and women interact—mostly for the better.
Abuse is abuse. If we stand up for victims—we stand for all victims.
And these young men are no doubt the victims of a meddling and unconstitutional campus tribunal system and the liars who bring their accusations to them.
It is time for the young men falsely accused of sexual assault to be heard.