Last year, the University of Oregon was widely criticized when it accessed the mental health records of an alleged rape victim who was suing the school. A recent grant will fund confidential legal counsel to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence on campus.
Statistics confirmed by the Association of American Universities are grim. One out of five females are sexually assaulted or raped while on a college campus. And many more go unreported.
The Domestic Violence Clinic at the U of O will use part of the $300,000 Department of Justice grant to pay half of the salary of attorney Kasia Mlynski. She provides free victim support services protected under attorney/client privilege.
“My records are completely confidential and cannot be taken by the University for any use,” Mlynski says.
Mlynski says when cases have a criminal component, defense attorneys can seek to subpoena sensitive student information.
“Unless that victim has an attorney or someone working with them to file an motion to quash that subpoena and end it—a valid subpoena can lead to the release of your educational records,” says Mlynski. “So that’s something that students really need attorneys to be involved in to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”
The current grant will permit Mlynski’s office to provide legal services beyond the U of O--to students at Lane Community College and Northwest Christian University. In the two years since she started as staff attorney of Student Survivor Legal Services, Mlynski has seen a growing number of students each quarter seeking legal counsel for issues ranging from stalking to sexual violence.