This week the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) and other women’s rights advocates commandeered a hearing held by the Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) in order to express grievance over the Department’s rescinding of Title IX guidance documents that served to protect victims of sexual assault on college campuses.

Because the Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR), the office responsible for Title IX enforcement, refused to hold a public hearing on the matter, OPE’s hearing was the only opportunity to publicly express disappointment and outrage over the decision.

“It is proven that students who have experienced some form of sexual violence do not perform as well academically afterwards,” testified Emily Garrett, a sophomore at George Washington University and FMF intern. “This could be due to the fact that their assailant is in their class, or that they don’t feel comfortable going back to their rooms—which is often where (assaults) occurred—or even walking around campus because of the fear that they might have an encounter with their assailant. Until the lasting effects of sexual assault are brought to light among all people, especially government officials, we will continue to go nowhere.”

Hundreds of thousands of people submitted comments to the Department of Education urging them to keep the Obama-era guidances intact. Yet less than 48 hours after the comment period ended, DeVos rescinded the April 2011 Dear Colleague Letter on Sexual Violence and the April 2014 Title IX guidance document, prioritizing the rights of those alleged to have committed sexual violence over the rights of survivors.

“Through this action, we are left wondering whether Secretary DeVos takes equal access to education for survivors seriously. For many, of course, sexual violence is deadly serious,” testified Gaylynn Burroughs, Director of Policy and Research at FMF. “By withdrawing the 2011 and 2014 guidances, this Administration has unfortunately sent the message that women’s education is disposable. They can either put up with sexual violence or get out.”

DeVos’s decision does away with the 60-day guideline for resolving investigations, basically allowing schools to draw out the process and unnecessarily delay resolution of sexual misconduct complaints. The new interim guidance allows schools to impose a clear and convincing evidence standard to grievance procedures, basically giving the alleged perpetrator, and the perpetrator only, the presumption of truth.

The interim guidance also allows schools to give the perpetrator, and only the perpetrator, the ability to appeal a finding. In addition, the Department will allow schools to mediate all Title IX disputes, including cases of sexual assault, essentially forcing victims to “work it out” their alleged perpetrator.

One in five women and one in sixteen men will be sexually assaulted while in college, and 90 percent of survivors will never report the attack.

 

Media Resources: Feminist Majority Foundation 9/22/17

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