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C-VILLE — Allegations of a botched UVA rape investigation at center of a challenge to the Campus SaVE Act (March 12, 2014)

Filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. on March 6, the suit is intended as a landmark civil rights action that could derail the controversial Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act, according to Doe’s attorney James Marsh. Touted as a major reform turning point by supporters, SaVE pushes more responsibility for preventing sexual assault onto colleges. The new federal law gets some things right, Marsh said—particularly education initiatives aimed at students—but it seriously undermines recent federal efforts to force schools to take a harder line on sexual assault cases.

And without the stick of tough federal laws behind them, colleges and universities won’t crack down on sexual violence, said Marsh. There’s just not enough incentive. “The victims’ lobby pales in comparison to the university presidents’ lobby,” he said. “This is our legal recourse.”

The implementation of the Campus SaVE Act loomed, said Marsh, a piece of legislation he said looks like reform, but actually masks big backwards steps in combating college sexual assault—most notably, by eliminating the preponderance standard set forth three years ago by the DOE. It also removes the time limit for colleges to resolve sexual assault cases.

So his client is petitioning a judge to force a resolution in the long-stalled federal investigation of UVA’s policy, demanding, in essence, that both the government and the courts square the contradictory regulations now on the books.

“We’re trying to make these issues public, get them discussed, to have the Department of Education indicate how they’re going to be proceeding in these cases,” Marsh said. “This is really a test case.”

Marsh said his client’s case—and her long wait for an answer from the government—is evidence that it’s going to take more than that to stop sexual violence on college campuses. The suit is leverage, he said in a fight to push UVA and schools like it to protect women.

Without clear rules for handling rape cases, “what can happen is you have a long, slow, wide, and disparate watering down of women’s rights,” said Marsh.


The Washington Post — Former U-Va. student seeks to block new U.S. law on campuses’ handling of sexual assaults (March 6, 2014)

A former University of Virginia student hopes to prevent a new federal law on campus sexual assault from taking effect Friday, claiming it would undermine the investigation into her allegations that a classmate raped her more than two years ago.

A lawsuit in federal court in the District argues that the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act would allow colleges and universities to place a greater burden of proof on alleged victims, renewing the debate about which standard of evidence colleges must use in disciplinary proceedings in sexual assault cases.

James R. Marsh, the student’s attorney, said she is not alone. “These are young women on campuses at some of the most prestigious universities that are unable to achieve any just and fair treatment of their complaints,” he said.

As of Thursday afternoon, the court had not responded to the lawsuit, which Marsh said he filed more than a week ago. He called his frustrations with the court’s handling of the case a “parallel for what these victims are facing at every single level.”


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