ATIXA Tip of the Week

Should a campus sexual assault victim write out his/her own statement, or should the college draft the complaint?

 Brett A. Sokolow, Esq., Executive Director of ATIXA responds:  A statement originated by the institution is best and can serve as the basis for the complaint.  In the ATIXA Civil Rights Investigation and Grievance Model, that statement is the result of the investigator’s relevant interview notes with the alleged victim, as signed off by the alleged victim for accuracy.  If, however, the alleged victim submits his or her own statement, we need to talk with them about it and see if they intend for everything they included to be shared with the accused student.  If not, they may want to rescind and/or edit it first.  I am reticent to encourage these statements because they often contain irrelevant, personal and/or sensitive information that should not be shared with the accused student.  If that is what the alleged victim submits, and it includes personally identifiable of the accused student, the complainant has created an education record of the accused student, too (assuming you retain it, which you will).  Thus, the accused student is entitled to see it (it’s his record), though it is appropriate to redact personally identifiable information about the alleged victim, unless s/he has consented to that release.  So, we can protect his/her irrelevant, personal and/or sensitive information from release by redaction, but that is both messy and liable to provoke questions from the accused student about what we are withholding.  I prefer to deliver (yes, give it to the accused student, even if FERPA doesn’t mandate that) a clean, unredacted statement by the alleged victim (via the investigator) in the form of the complaint.

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