Last month, the L.L. Dunn Law Firm recently partnered with the Access to Justice Project in Charlotte, North Carolina, to defend a sexual assault victim who had been charged by the Washington County Sheriff's Office with making a false crime report - a 1st-degree misdemeanor in the Commonwealth of Virginia. On August 26, 2021, after a full day bench trial, Circuit Court Judge Sage B. Johnson acquitted the victim, and this week he issued an order that will allow the victim to expunge her arrest record.
Wondering why the L.L. Dunn Law Firm defended someone accused of making a false report?
So glad you asked the question!!
First, the label "false" is often tossed around inaccurately, as found by the attached research summary. Nonprofits like End Violence Against Women International (EVAWI) are working to train law enforcement officials on how to avoid using biases and stereotypes to wrongly label reports as false through its "Start by Believing" campaign; however, it is still a big problem. Only a meaningful investigation can disprove a sexual assault allegation.
Furthermore, as explained by EVAWI experts called during the criminal trial, a recantation is not necessary enough, in and of itself, to constitute a false report. Just like DNA evidence has proven that innocent people falsely confess, research by Dr. Lisa Avalos and others is showing that victimized people can falsely recant under police pressure. Thankfully, this is something I learned early on in my advocacy through working on the "Justice for Patty" campaign in Madison, Wisconsin, which is recounted in the book Cry Rape.
Defending my client in court was truly an honor. I encourage all who care about survivors to ensure that their local law enforcement agencies, workplaces, and schools use the training provided by EVAWI and other advocacy organizations to avoid further traumatizing sexual abuse victims by wrongly stigmatizing them with allegations of false reports absent an investigation proving the same.
For those following the various legal challenges brought against the Trump-era Title Regulations issued by DeVos to take effect in August 2020, it is worth reviewing the recent decision in Victim Rights Law Center, et al., v. Cardona, et al., Case No. 1:20-cv-11104 (D. Mass. July 28, 2021). While the court rejected various challenges to several provisions of the 2020 regulations, it found 34 C.F.R. 106.45(b)(1) to be arbitrary and capricious.
Don't be fooled! Just because institutions of higher education may be denying victims the right to proceed on their sexual assault complaints through the Title IX grievance process by citing to DeVos' new Title IX regulations, it doesn't mean that survivors don't have rights to participate in the general disciplinary process against the accused!
Title IX and the Clery Act are two separate federal statutes, both addressing campus sexual assault, but the new Title IX regulations do not affect a victim's rights under the Clery Act. See Doe v. DHHS, 85 F.Supp.3d 1 (D.D.C. 2015). Here is a list of victims' rights that still apply under the Clery Act:
These rights apply to students and employees pursuant to the Clery Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1092(f)(8)(C), which covers both on and off-campus incidents of gender violence, but it can arguably be applied outside of those two groups to others per the statutory language of the Clery Act.
Any victims needing assistance in campus proceedings should contact the L.L. Dunn Law Firm for assistance!
It has been a sad weekend for those of us who followed the life and times of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away last Friday on Rosh Hashanah. She leaves behind an incredible legacy for advocates and attorneys working to shore up gender equality within the United States.
As well said by the Notorious RBG in 2010, her work was not on "women's rights," rather it was on "the constitutional principle of the equal citizenship stature of men and women." Such equal citizenship status would be advanced through the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which has been ratified by three-fourths of the States as of 2020. Despite meeting this constitutional threshold, the Trump administration opposes recognition for the ERA, and so, a legal battle is being waged by the Offices of the Attorneys General in Virginia, Illinois, and Nevada. It is my sincere hope that the ERA will be acknowledged by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to ensure equal citizenship, not just for women and men, or boys and girls, but for all citizens - whether they define themselves within a gender binary or otherwise.
I am also providing expert testimony in support of victim rights legislation, such as Missouri Senate Bill 569 "Justice for Survivors Act," which ensures that sexual assault survivors receive information about their rights and options when coming into contact with the criminal system. Currently under attack in Fox v. Missouri, such legislation is essential for improving the criminal system's treatment of crime victims. Here is part of my testimony from the virtual stand:
“We have to have a system that’s responsive to survivors — and we don’t. We force survivors into a system, and we use them in whatever way we want. We don’t allow them autonomy, information, and rights when accessing that system, and attorneys such as myself have made entire careers and focuses on ensuring that survivors are not pieces of evidence.”
Today, in honor of RBG, take a moment to reflect on the legacy you want to leave behind, and if nothing else, get out and vote this November!