If a college student is accused of sexual assault, it can ruin their college career and future job prospects even if they’re completely innocent.

We’re going to need more organizations like this.

Tracy Frank of the Bismarck Tribune reports.

Nonprofit supports rights of those accused of campus sexual assault

Sherry Warner Seefeld spent nearly three months worrying that her son would end up in the state penitentiary.

“I saw not just his career and future damaged, but more importantly, his emotional and psychological health destroyed,” said the Fargo mother and sociology teacher. “I hurt for Caleb so much.”

In January 2010, Caleb Warner was accused of sexually assaulting another University of North Dakota student. While he was never charged with a crime, the next month Warner was kicked out of UND after a Student Relations Committee found him in violation of criminal sexual assault laws and “conducting himself in a manner that significantly endangers the health or safety of members of the university community.”

“He started thinking that if his college could find him guilty, what’s to stop a jury from finding him guilty,” Warner Seefeld said. “It was very scary.”

She and two other mothers who say their sons were falsely accused of sexual misconduct recently formed a national nonprofit organization called Families Advocating for Campus Equality to provide a support system for other families going through what they experienced and to bring awareness to what they call a “lack of fair and balanced safeguards within campus hearings.”

“When this happened to Caleb in 2010, I thought we were the only ones,” she said. “We felt very isolated. You feel afraid a lot. It’s very traumatic.”

Their goal is to ensure fairness and due process for all parties involved in allegations of sexual misconduct on college campuses. The group also hopes to help change the ways campuses respond to sexual assaults. When the issue of sexual misconduct on college campuses is addressed, rights of the accused are hardly, if ever, mentioned, said Warner Seefeld, who is president of the group.

“I decided that it was a cause absolutely worth fighting for,” she said. “I believe in fighting against injustice. This was so appalling and lonely.”