In their zeal to erase everything forward-thinking President Obama put in place during his term, Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos just wagged her finger in the face of sexual assault survivors.
You’d think the only people trying to gut Title IX are rampant college football boosters objecting to diverting a single dime of an athletic department’s budget to women’s sports. But Title IX’s civil rights protections have been the tool (sometimes the only tool) campus sexual assault survivors have to force publicly funded Universities to account for and redress their inaction on sexual assault claims.
In 2011 President Obama’s department of education distributed a letter (commonly known as the “Dear Colleague Letter”) detailing schools’ responsibilities under Title IX while responding to campus sexual assault claims. The letter has been viewed as an important guide for both the universities and the students involved to understand their rights and a roadmap for Title IX administrators dealing with such claims to “respond promptly and effectively to sexual violence against students.”
— 🌱CitizenKayS💥 (@CitizenKayS) September 7, 2017
In July DeVos decided to “review” the guidelines. She had a series of meetings with campus administrators, survivor advocates and, ominously, representatives of Men’s Rights Activists (MRA) groups, the latter who argue that sexual assault is vastly less common than reported and false accusations are rampant (studies show that false reporting occurs in only 2 to 10 percent of cases) . Overwhelmingly schools, organizations, and legal advisors urged DeVos to keep her hands off the Dear Colleague Letter.
Today DeVos indicated it was on its way out. “The failed policy has pushed schools to overreach,” she said, repeatedly emphasizing the rights of the accused. She also signaled that the department was beginning the process to replace the current system.
While any action to replace the current enforcement guidelines would not affect the law itself—universities still have the same responsibility and students retain the same rights–an important tool for survivors of sexual assault to understand the reporting process and hold their schools accountable to address it could be wiped off the books.
Betsy DeVos made a "both sides" justification for sexual assault, perpetuating victim blaming. #StopBetsy
— Molly (@Molly_Kats) September 7, 2017
DeVos couldn’t signal more clearly that she believes campus sexual assault is over-reported and that it’s simply too easy for survivors to seek redress for what she believes is their own responsibility. Or to paraphrase her deputy Candice Jackson, who asserted to the New York Times “90 percent of (the accusations)— fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk’”. Hear that girls? Parents? The Trump Department of Education is speaking.
Featured image via Wikipedia Commons, Michael Vadon, CC 4.0