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Washington Post — Congress needs to act to allow victims of child sex abuse to recover restitution (May 6, 2014)

The justices are right in thinking that Congress should revisit the issue. Legislation set to be introduced Wednesday by Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) seems to be a step in the right direction, with its outline of options for full victim recovery when multiple individuals are involved and giving multiple defendants who have harmed the same victim the ability to sue each other to spread the cost of restitution. The court was clear in its opinion that “the victim should someday collect restitution for all her child pornography losses.” Congress needs to provide the tools to turn that someday into reality.


Richmond Times-Dispatch — W&M, U.Va. under investigation for handling of sexual assaults (May 1, 2014)

James R. Marsh said the department has taken “an inordinate amount of time” to investigate allegations about how the university handled his client’s 2011 rape case.

Those complexities are reflected in the suits Marsh filed in March in U.S. District Court in Washington—one seeks to press OCR to hold U.Va. accountable and another action challenges new provisions of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act.

Supporters say the SaVE reforms put more responsibility on colleges to stop assaults, but others, including Marsh, contend the changes allow the schools to place a greater burden of proof on victims.

The suit, filed under the name Jane Doe, alleges U.Va. officials destroyed or withheld from the sexual assault board key evidence, including photos showing her injuries after she was drugged and raped by another student.

Marsh said he is encouraged the Department of Education is investigating a large number of colleges and universities, but “our pending lawsuit seeks to ensure the timeliness and completeness of those investigations.”

The government as well as the schools need to be held accountable, he said. “After more than 18 months, our client and other students at U.Va. are left wondering whether or not the university is in compliance with even the basic requirements under Title IX.”


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.


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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