Betsy DeVos’s Approach to Sexual Assault On Campuses Should Make Everyone Nervous

Candice Jackson, the top civil rights official at the Betsy Devos-led Department of Education, spoke to the New York Times about sexual assault on campus saying,

“[T]he accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’”

Jackson has apologized for her comments, but the comments are something that are a concern for the administration.  They’re worried that students are lying about being attacked to get revenge, and the accused are getting wrongfully punished. False accusations only account for 2 to 8 percent of all reports, so saying that they’re worried about that is a false worry.  It’s also making it harder for people to come forward about what has happened to them because they’re worried they’re not going to be believed.

If you care about ending sexual violence on campus this should scare the shit out of you.  The Obama administration had a completely different attitude about this problem.  They recognized sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape on campuses as forms of gender discrimination, meaning they fell under the purview of Title IX.

Title IX is a federal civil rights law that prohibits gender discrimination at colleges and universities, and is a part of the United States Education Amendments of 1972.

DeVos should be upholding Title IX as the secretary of education, but no one really knows how she’s going to handle this problem.

The “Dear Colleague” letter was issued by the Obama administration in April 2011 to help those trying to report a sexual crime on campus.  It laid out how to handle sexual assault cases at universities; it recommended a “preponderance of evidence” standard instead of the “clear and convincing evidence” that was previously used.  The “preponderance of evidence” standard means that it must be determined that sexual harassment or violence occurred; there are many critics of this standard. The critics believe that it’s biased of those accused and will result in way too many people being wrongly accused.  There are rarely any false accusations of sexual violence reported on campuses, and it’s already so hard to prove that a sexual assault occurred; that’s what supporters used to argue against the critics.

Sen. Robert Casey drilled DeVos on the subject at her hearing and I’m not too fond of her answer. When he asked if she would commit to the letter, she said it would be “premature” for her to do so. She dodged any other question asked about the preponderance, and responded saying assault is never OK and that she wanted to ensure “that the intent of the law is actually carried out in a way that recognizes both the victim, the rights of the victims, as well as those who are accused.”

This completely goes against everything the Obama administration has worked on. She’s saying that everyone needs fair treatment, but by not responding to whether or not she’ll use the preponderance worries me.  The Obama administration helped recognize campus sexual assault as a problem that needs to be confronted now.  They started the “It’s On Us” campaign to show its commitment to ending sexual violence on campuses and encouraged the involvement of the people.  I’m working very hard with this incoming administration to convince them that this is, in a sense, the civil rights issue of our time,” Vice President Joe Biden said before he left office. “It’s the human rights issue of our time.”

It seems that Devos and Jackson are not listening to anything Biden is telling them. They’re on the side of the accused and that makes me sick.  They’re worried the accused are being put at a disadvantage; how can they think that when most reported sexual harassment cases on campuses are brushed aside?  Jackson told the New York Times that this guidance encourages colleges to keep searching for evidence until something is found; Catherine Catherine E. Lhamon, who previously held Jackson’s position called this “patently, demonstrably untrue.”

All the Obama administration was trying to do was make it more fair and accessible for victims to come forward and report the crime.  All they did was offer guidelines for universities on how to handle the situation; for example they told the schools that they should be aware of the retaliation against someone who files a complaint.

This week men’s rights activists were allowed to meet with DeVos as campus sexual assault survivors; these are the people that deny that sexual assault on campus is even real.

Due to DeVos believing in false reports, all colleges are going to backtrack on any progress they’vemade.  We need colleges to be accountable for when accusations are made.  We’re at a time when our president is joking about grabbing “pussies” and and reports of corrective sexual assault, a form of sexual violence enacted on LGBTQIA people to “make them straight” or “not be trans,” are becoming more common. The DOE should be working to make the campuses safer, not trying to backtrack on the progress that has happened.

We as students are relying on anyone to help make the college campuses safer; we have to always be on the lookout for our teachers, staff, and other students in fear of them attacking us.  No one is there to listen to reports, so everyone is afraid to come forward, letting countless attackers get away without any punishment.  I’m not dumb, I know we still have a long way to go to make colleges a completely safe place, but we’ve already come so far; we need the DOE to be helping, not making things worse.

[via Cosmopolitan]

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