Yesterday, the Democratic Women’s Working Group (DWWG), along with Representatives Jackie Speier, Lois Frankel, Brenda Lawrence, and Annie Kuster and 77 House members, sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, urging her to retract her recently proposed rules for Title IX. In the letter, the representatives denounce the proposed rules, calling the rules a “blatant attempt to silence survivors of sexual harassment and violence and will force them back into the shadow.”
Secretary DeVos’ proposed rules would narrow the definition of sexual harassment; allow schools to ignore assaults and harassment that occur off-campus; limit the ability of survivors to get help; and force survivors to submit to cross-examination. Further, the proposed rules would deny survivors a fair process, allow schools to indefinitely delay investigations, and invite schools to abuse religious exemptions to Title IX.
The letter specifically expresses strong objections to removing protections for students who face sexual harassment and violence off-campus and allowing institutions to use “clear and convincing” standard of evidence, which perpetuates the myth that survivors, specifically women and girls, “cry rape.”
The letter also emphasizes that DeVos’ decision to rescind the Obama Administration’s 2011 and 2014 Title IX guidance documents and the new proposed Title IX rules that protect perpetrators and institutions conveys that “the Department is no longer committed to ensuring vital protections for victims of sexual harassment and violence” in schools.
The letter recognizes the impact of the #MeToo movement and the sexual assault epidemic, and states the importance of taking greater steps forward to ensure the safety of all students. As a result, the DWWG and the 81 representatives urge Secretary DeVos to arrange meetings with survivors and survivor advocacy organizations to create meaningful guidance on Title IX that ensures the protection of all students.
The letter requests that Secretary DeVos responds within two weeks.
Currently, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men will be sexually assaulted in college, and around 1 in 4 transgender, genderqueer, gender non-conforming or questioning students experience sexual violence as an undergraduate. Further, 41 percent of all campus sexual assault occur off-campus.
The proposed rules are currently open for comments. For more information on the proposed Title IX rules and submitting formal comments, click here.
Newswire Sources: Feminist Newswire 11/18/18; Congresswoman Jackie Speier Press Release 11/29/18