Sex Crimes

Consent Withheld

Safe word


A George Mason University student accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend won his due process lawsuit against the administrator who denied him a fair hearing. The students, named "John Doe" and "Jane Roe" in the suit, had engaged in BDSM, an umbrella category of kinky and often rough sex. His adjudicators conceded that Doe correctly obeyed the couple's "safe word," but the school expelled him anyway.

Doe and Roe had established that the word "red" would signal that sex was no longer desired and that consent was withdrawn. Merely saying "no" was not enough, according to the terms of their relationship. After they broke up, Roe—a student at a different university—claimed that Doe was harassing her. This eventually led GMU to initiate sexual misconduct proceedings against him.

At his hearing, a three-person panel sided with Doe and cleared him of wrongdoing. But an administrator, Assistant Dean of Students Brent Ericson, disagreed with the verdict, granted Roe's appeal, and assigned the case to himself. This second investigation was a farce: Ericson had already deemed Doe guilty.

But a district court judge agreed that Doe's due process rights were violated, and the student prevailed in his suit. "As far as I know, our client is the first plaintiff in the country to win summary judgment in a campus sexual assault case," Doe's lawyer, Justin Dillon, told reason. "We are extremely pleased with the result and look forward to seeing the judge craft a just remedy."