New Ideas about Restorative Justice for College Sexual Assault CasesMarch 25, 2023
According to LAist, Alexandra Fulcher is the Title IX director at Occidental College, and when a sexual assault survivor crosses her office, it’s the first step in an important process that can have serious consequences for both the survivor and the person they accuse. Often the survivor has to relive their trauma during cross-examination in an in-person hearing while the accused faces expulsion.
Occidental, however, has adopted a new approach that affords survivors additional options. If you’re the victim of a college sexual assault, you need the skilled legal guidance of an experienced California sexual assault attorney on your side.
The Restorative Justice Conference
Occidental now offers a restorative justice path, which is a philosophy that prefers collective solutions – that directly address violence and harm within specific communities – to punishment. In the restorative justice conference, the survivor participates with the person who harmed them, and in the process, the following occur:
The victim lets the accused know how their actions harmed them
The accused takes responsibility for their actions
The accused commits to a plan for repairing the damage done and preventing it from happening again
The basics include:
Both parties must agree to participate.
The facilitators of the restorative justice conference – or circle – meet with both parties to help ensure they each have the support they need.
The survivor identifies the outcome they seek.
The accused acknowledges causing harm and faces the fact of their wrongdoing.
Often, the accused is asked to write a letter to the survivor to help them take accountability before meeting up in a face-to-face setting. The prep work required to get everyone where they need to be for the circle to be productive can be a lengthy process.
The Restorative Justice Path: Pros
A few colleges dotted across the state are exploring or seriously considering the path of restorative justice in response to both sexual assault and sexual harassment cases. Fulcher shares that students at Occidental are increasingly choosing these conferences over the traditional approach.
One of restorative justice’s primary benefits is that it helps to encourage those who are reticent to come forward to do so. The vast majority of campus sexual violence survivors never file reports, and too few who do ultimately seek disciplinary action.
The last administration implemented a required cross-examination component for Title IX claims, which is often counterproductive for survivors, while also affording less formal approaches – both of which tend to bolster the position of the accused. These changes spurred colleges like Occidental to turn to this restorative justice path.
Reach Out to an Experienced California Sexual Assault Attorney Today
The practiced California sexual assault attorneys at Bamieh & De Smeth – proudly serving both Ventura and Santa Barbara – have a wealth of experience helping victims of college sexual abuse find the right path forward for them, and we’re here for you, too. Learn more by contacting or calling us at 805-643-5555 today.