What happens when I file a campus (or "conduct code") complaint?
Although schools process sexual assault complaints differently, federal law requires that all schools’ procedures have some things in common.
Your school must publish its procedures for investigating and adjudicating sexual assault complaints and make them readily accessible to you. Many, if not all, schools in Washington resolve sexual assault complaints through their student conduct code process. To learn more about your school’s complaint process, contact your school’s Title IX coordinator or refer to the Resources section of this guide.
Your school must inform you of the deadlines and timelines for all major stages of the investigation and resolution of your complaint. You may present witnesses and evidence. If your school permits the person who assaulted you to have a lawyer, you can have one too. Although there is no right to a free lawyer in campus complaints, refer to the Resources section of this guide to find nonprofit organizations that can help you find someone to support you.
After you file a complaint, someone from your school will likely interview you about what happened. Although talking about what happened may be difficult, it is necessary for your school to understand as much as possible about the assault in order to conduct an effective investigation. It is helpful if you can identify any witnesses or provide any relevant evidence, such as emails, text messages, or any exchanges on social media, that may help your school understand what happened.
Some schools hold a formal hearing before they decide your complaint, while others do not. If your school does not, you can request one.
Can my school require me to go to a mediation with the person who assaulted me?
No. Schools cannot handle sexual violence complaints through mediation. Mediation is a process where people meet, usually with a trained third party, to resolve their dispute. Mediation is rarely a safe process for someone who has been assaulted by the other person, and that is why schools are not allowed to resolve complaints of sexual assault through mediation. If your school suggests that you mediate your complaint, you have the right to refuse.
What will I be required to prove in a campus complaint?
Your school must use the preponderance of evidence standard (which means it is “more likely than not” that the sexual assault occurred) to decide your case. This is different than the criminal standard. What it means is that your school will look at all the facts that you present to them, and all the facts presented by the person who assaulted you, and then decide whether it was more likely than not that the person sexually assaulted you.
NOTE: The Trump Administration has stated its intent to try to change this legal standard to make it harder for sexual assault survivors to prove their cases. Because it is uncertain if, how, or when this standard will change, we recommend you consult with a lawyer or a sexual assault advocate.
How will I know when and what my school decided about my complaint?
Your school must notify you in writing of the outcome of your complaint, including whether any sanctions were imposed on the person who assaulted you. The National Women’s Law Center has a great resource on what you’re allowed to say about the complaint process. Your school cannot give you a “gag-order."
Can I appeal if I disagree with the school's decision in my campus complaint?
If your school allows the person who assaulted you to appeal the school’s decision, your school must allow you to do so, too. Many schools in Washington State, including the University of Washington and Washington State University, allow appeals. You should ask your Title IX Coordinator or victim advocates to explain to you how the appeals process works at your school. Your school should also notify you in writing about how to appeal when they send you the written outcome of your complaint.
What if my school files a campus complaint but I don’t want to participate?
You have the right to decide whether to participate in this process or not. Even if you were the one who filed the complaint initially, you can withdraw your complaint at any time. And if your school files the complaint against the student or teacher or staff who sexually assaulted you, you are not required to participate, give testimony, or be involved in that process if you do not want to.
Filing a Campus Complaint
Every school has a procedure you can use to file a complaint against the student who sexually assaulted you. Title IX—the federal law that protects students from gender discrimination, including sexual assault and harassment—requires your school to promptly and fairly investigate and resolve your complaint. Your school’s Title IX coordinator is required to have knowledge of all Title IX requirements and of your school’s policies and procedures regarding sexual assault, and must provide that information to you.