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10 Things to do When Accused of Sexual Assault or Domestic Violence

1. Shut The [email protected]#$ Up

The first thing you need to do if you are falsely accused of sexual assault or domestic violence is not talk to police, law enforcement or authorities. The first step is to realize that you are in trouble. Unfortunately, many people try to minimize the trouble they are in. Making statements to authorities before you understand what evidence they have against you is never a good idea. 

2. Talk to an Attorney and Understand the Attorney Client Privilege

When you speak to a defense attorney about the accusation that you are facing the conversation in "privileged."  This means that your communications with an attorney are confidential and the attorney cannot be a witness against you.  It is important to understand that this rule only applies to attorneys. Talking to your friends, family or other students about an accusation is not confidential. Do not try to get advice from friends or family as they may be called as a witness against you.

3. Don't Agree to Interviews

If you have been falsely accused of domestic violence or sexual assault it is likely that you will be contacted to perform an interview. Authorities may tell you that they "just want to get your side of the story." They may say "we just have a couple of questions so we can close our file on this."  You should not agree to be interviewed or sign any statements. At this point it is unlikely that you have a full and complete understanding of what you have been accused of and what evidence there is against you.

4. Save Potential Evidence

Most potential evidence in these cases is cell phone data. It is important to save: text messages, App messages, emails, photos, social media posts, credit card bills etc. This type of data is often not recoverable and once it has been deleted it is impossible to retrieve. If someone else has made a post of facebook or social media then you should take a screen shot of this evidence before it disappears. Put this evidence in a folder or thumb drive and keep it to yourself.

5. Stay off Social Media

It is not a good idea to take to social media to disparage your accuser or tell your side of events. Someone else is likely to take screen-shot if this information and you will need to explain it later. Also, you may appear to be harassing the accuser and this could have negative repercussions in your case.

6. Create a Timeline

After weeks or months memories fade.  Your case may not be heard be a judge or school official for weeks or months. It is important to create a timeline of events while your memory is as fresh as possible. This timeline of events should include times, locations and the names of possible witnesses to the events. You should work to write down what you remember now. After time it becomes more and more difficult to re-create and remember what occurred when and the names of people that may need to be interviewed by your attorney. Additionally, it may be a good idea to obtain statements from these possible witnesses before their memories fade as well.

7. Photograph Injuries

You may have not have even realized that you may also have injuries. If you have scratch marks, bite marks or bruises you should ensure that you photograph these injuries. These injuries can disappear in the coming days and you should photograph them to ensure they are preserved. In claims of self-defense or mutual combat this evidence may become critical.

8. Cease Communication with your Accuser & Obey No-Contact Orders

You should cease communications with your accuser immediately. Stop all verbal and written communications.  If you continue to communicate with your accuser you risk creating more evidence against yourself. An apology can be used against you in the future and continued communications can be saved by your accuser as evidence against you.

Additionally, a judge or official may have issued a No-Contact Order between you and your accuser. A No-Contact Order generally is only enforceable in one direction. Even if the other party willingly communicates with you, you may be held accountable for a violation of the No-Contact Order.

9. Consider Filing a Cross-Complaint

Depending on your situation you may want to consider filing a cross-complaint, police report or order of protection against your accuser. This is only generally applicable if you feel you have been the victim of a crime. Talk to an attorney before you attempt to do this because you want to ensure that you have good standing before you talk to authorities. 

10. Consider Enrolling in Counseling/Alcohol Treatment

If you are ever found guilty or responsible for actions that you may have taken it is important to show that you realize that you need improvement. By voluntarily enrolling in counseling you may be able to demonstrate that you are taking pro-active steps to ensure that misconduct will not re-occur. When negotiating a resolution to a case I am often able to get a client a better outcome if they are willing to enroll in treatment and self-improvement counseling.

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