For Immediate Release: September 22, 2017
The Feminist Majority Majority Foundation is outraged by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s decision to rescind policies and guidance that protected survivors of sexual assault and worked to reduce the high levels of sexual assault on college and university campuses. Today, according to many studies, one in five women will be assaulted while in college.
“The DeVos Department of Education can’t seem to understand that its job is to protect victims of discrimination, including student survivors of sexual assault. Make no mistake, by rescinding the April 2011 Dear Colleague Letter on Sexual Violence and the April 2014 Title IX guidance document, the Department has prioritized the rights of those alleged to have committed sexual violence over victims of assault. Far from guaranteeing equity—the goal of Title IX—the Department has actually tipped the scales against victims, the very people the Department is supposed to protect,” stated Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
“Unbelievably, the Department has also issued new interim guidance in the form of a Q&A, showing that its stated desire to listen to stakeholders through a notice and comment process is a sham. Hundreds of thousands of people, through the comment period that just ended on Wednesday, have already told Betsy DeVos and the Department that they want to keep the Obama-era guidance intact. They ignored those voices. Just like they ignored calls from survivors to meet with leadership at the Department of Education,” continued Gaylynn Burroughs, Director of Policy and Research at the Feminist Majority Foundation.
“By issuing this new interim guidance, the Department has revealed an aggressive and willful ignorance toward the needs of survivors. It 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. It allows schools to impose a clear and convincing evidence standard to grievance procedures, basically giving the alleged perpetrator, and the perpetrator only, a presumption of truth. The preponderance of the evidence standard is the only standard that puts both parties on an equal playing field. The Trump Administration is sending us back to an ugly time when rape victims suffered in silence in our schools and colleges and perpetrators were able to assault multiple women with impunity,” Burroughs added.
“Shockingly,” Smeal continued, “the Q&A also allows schools to give the perpetrator, and only the perpetrator, the ability to appeal a finding. The Department also will allow schools to mediate all Title IX disputes, including cases of sexual assault, but the Q&A makes no mention of the burden, trauma, and outright ridiculousness, of having victims work out their assault with an alleged perpetrator.”
“Rescinding the 2011 and 2014 guidance was a reckless move by the Department of Education, but it is not surprising, and is all the more outrageous coming from an Administration that is being led by someone who has bragged about sexual assault. But let us not forget that the Republican platform of 2016 also advocated rescinding the Obama policies because of pressure from special interests. This administration may be trying to send us back to the days when survivors kept quiet and were afraid to demand their rights, and universities swept allegations under the rug. But survivors and student activists will not keep quiet, and today there is a whole movement on college campuses to end the epidemic of sexual assault,” stated Smeal.###