When a victim or a perpetrator is under the influence of alcohol, that can dramatically alter the viability of the case because it impacts the quality of the evidence, Woodall said.
“What happens and what we do see here on college campuses, it’s not just always alcohol, sometimes there are other substances involved,” Woodall said.
“It certainly is fertile ground in cross examination for pointing out mistakes and misinterpretations. That’s where the alcohol and substances start to cause problems.”
Howie Kallem, the Title IX compliance coordinator for UNC, said he hasn’t had any experience with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office in his four months on the job, but nationally campus sexual assault victims struggle to get their cases to court.
“I think it means as a general matter, Title IX offices, equal opportunity offices, women’s centers need to work with campus police and municipal police to try and encourage them to look past those factors and to be more willing to make the difficult calls on evidence to go forward with these cases,” Kallem said.
The answer to this “disturbing” trend lies in better training for court officials and law enforcement officers, Kallem said.
In bigger cities, Kallem said district attorney’s offices undergo trainings that help them navigate the intricacies involved with prosecuting sexual assault cases.
“They understand it’s more likely to occur when two people know each other and they don’t hold that against the survivor, they understand the role of alcohol and that alcohol doesn’t affect consent and the use of alcohol is not a defense,” Kallem said.
“People who have that kind of training and who do those cases a lot are in a better position to understand why those cases should be taken to trial.”
Shamecca Bryant , the executive director of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, said it’s not just law enforcement officers that need training, it’s the community.
“Juries have a place in determining guilt in trial cases and we are seeing that having a jury convict someone is very difficult in rape cases and other sexually violent cases,” Bryant said in an email. “We need to educate the public on the true dynamics of sexual violence and trauma to survivors.”
Kallem said he has hope that more campus sexual assault cases will one day see the light of a courtroom.
Kallem was at a conference recently when an expert said the nationwide conversations happening about campus sexual assault have spurred a new trend in courtrooms.
“While the trend up to now has been to not take the cases to prosecutors, she seemed to think that trend was changing because of the changes going on on college campuses,” Kallem said.
He said victims must ignore the statistics of the past.
“The best thing you can do is try to work with police and prosecutors to convince them that sexual assaults are serious regardless of the circumstances,” he said.