Due Process

04.17.13

Title IX Almost Ruined My Son’s Life

Attorney Judith Grossman reveals her son’s harrowing ordeal after a sexual-assault accusation.

In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal today titled “A Mother, a Feminist, Aghast,” attorney Judith Grossman writes about her family's harrowing ordeal after her college-age son was accused of “nonconsensual sex” by an ex-girlfriend, several years after their relationship ended.

Grossman’s piece reads like a Kafka-esque nightmare: with no preliminary inquiry by the school into the accusations, Grossman says, the college's Title IX office operated under the assumption that “my son would not be afforded a presumption of innocence.” A campus tribunal—seemingly, with no particular background in the law or in evaluating legal evidence—would rule on the claim, with only half of the tribunal needing to decide that the alleged incident “more likely than not” occurred for punishment to be meted out. The list of accusations against the boy were “vague statements,” Grossman says, “lack[ing] even the most basic information about the acts alleged to have happened years before. Nor were the allegations supported by evidence other than the word of the ex-girlfriend.” Her son was reportedly denied the right to represent himself with council at a hearing; the tribunal based its grilling on the “unsworn testimony” of the ex-girlfriend; and seemingly relevant evidence (emails, social media posts) about the nature of the ex-couple’s relationship was not allowed in the hearing. The school even allegedly told the boy not to discuss the matter with potential “witnesses,” nor was he allowed to question his accuser or the witnesses against him.

Grossman, being a lawyer, was able to fight for her son’s constitutional rights (“Who knew that American college students are required to surrender the Bill of Rights at the campus gates?”), and the charges against him were ultimately dismissed. But she concludes that, in Title IX’s well-meaning zeal to guarantee equality between the sexes on university campuses, it has “obliterated the presumption of innocence that is so foundational to our traditions of justice.” Fighting for women’s rights is all well and good—Grossman is a self-identified feminist, after all—but this incident smacks of wreaking “the very injustices the movement itself has for so long sought to correct.”