In an announcement at the Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that she is working to replace Title IX protections for survivors of gender based violence and sexual assault.
In her speech, DeVos criticized the guidance put in place under the Obama administration in the Dear Colleague Letter to protect students from sexual assault on college campuses. She remarked that she will be hearing from politicians, medical professionals, and the clergy to “replace the current approach” in handling Title IX complaints and instances of sexual violence.
DeVos gave voice to those she referred to as so-called “falsely accused” and claimed the existing guidelines overreached and failed to give those accused of sexual misconduct due process.
Demonstrators gathered outside of the Antonin Scalia School of Law to protest DeVos’s expected rollback on Title IX protections for survivors of sexual assault. Survivors shared their experiences and described the necessity of Title IX in seeking justice on campus. Many young women detailed how, before the creation of the Dear Colleague Letter, administrators gave deference to students accused of sexual assault at the expense of survivors. Current students spoke about the desire for policy reform that priorities survivors of sexual violence and chanted “Protect survivors, not rapists!”
Several women’s rights groups have spoken out against DeVos’s recommended policy changes. The group “End Rape on Campus,” (EROC) a survivor advocacy group that works towards ensuring an end to sexual violence on school campuses, called the speech, “an attack on survivors of sexual violence and the right to an education free from violence.” Annie E. Clark, the Executive Director of EROC, further stated, “we will not accept this blatant favoritism for the rights of rapists under the guise of fairness.” Several women’s rights groups have made statements condemning DeVos’ promise to roll back the Title IX guidelines including the National Women’s Law Center, the National Organization for Women, Know Your IX, and the Feminist Majority Foundation.
After Secretary DeVos’ speech, former Vice President Joe Biden released a statement in which he wrote, “I’m asking everyone who has a stake in this fight to step up. Students, parents, faculty, alumni. Don’t just sit and watch. Speak up.”
Sexual assault prevention organizations are also uniting to stand against the injustices that many survivors will continue to face under the changes that DeVos and the Trump Administration are currently proposing. They hope to ensure that the policies enacted during the Obama administration, such as the guidelines in the Dear Colleague Letter, which provided guidance for investigations and hearings, are not dismantled.
Earlier this summer, Secretary DeVos held meetings with Men’s Rights Advocates who claimed to be the victims of false accusations of campus sexual assault. Then after spending just 90 minutes with survivors of campus sexual violence, she met with members of the National Coalition for Men (NCFM), whose President, Harry Crouch, has stated that survivors of abuse are to blame for their harassment.
Media Sources: CNN 9/7/17, Time 9/7/17, NWLC 9/7/17, NOW 9/7/17, Know Your IX 9/7/17, Feminist Newswire 9/7/17, Feminist Newswire 7/19/17, Think Progress 7/11/17