The Trump administration is expected to roll back protections for victims of campus rape, making it harder for them to get justice and punishing them for speaking out.
Continuing on its march to seemingly undo all Obama-era directives, the Trump administration may move this week to weaken the judicial process sexual assault victims use to seek justice for campus attacks.
According to the BuzzFeed report, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Thursday might announce the U.S. Department of Education is rolling back parts of Title IX, the education gender equality law that provides survivors of campus sexual violence with support to receive justice on campus.
Despite the Orwellian rhetoric from federal officials that DeVos’ Thursday speech at George Mason University on Title IX policy will be “centered around equal opportunity and equal protection for all,” advocates and Democrats fear the worst.
They fear DeVos and the Trump administration are moving aggressively to undo key directives initiated by President Barack Obama, which have been in place for the better part of this decade and have been responsible for clarifying to victims and to college administrations exactly how assault claims should be handled.
All of that might soon be erased.
“With an Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights who blamed sexual assaults on alcohol and regret and a President with his own concerning history on the issue, it’s clear Secretary DeVos could use some suggestions on how to combat the epidemic of campus sexual violence,” said Sen. Senator Murray (D-WA) on Wednesday.
“Our schools and universities should be doing everything they can to support survivors and help them seek justice, so I hope Secretary DeVos does the right thing and starts standing up for students and survivors on college campuses across the country.”
Specifically, advocates fear DeVos wants to undo the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter. Issued by the Department of Education, it pointedly reminded school what they must do when a student reports an assault as outlined in the long-standing Title IX law, which was passed in 1972.
The 2011 Dear Colleague Letter noted that it was the responsibility of colleges and universities “to take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence.” It also outlined “how long campus investigations should take, what standard of evidence to use, and that schools could not simply defer to police to handle reports of sexual assault,” BuzzFeed noted.
The 2011 Dear Colleague Letter did not create the laws incorporated under Title IX, and if DeVos moves to rescind the letter, the Title IX laws still stand. But the move would likely be seen as a signal to colleges and universities that the federal government does not view those laws as being paramount.
“It makes it harder for students to stand up for their own civil rights and to know their own civil rights,” Jess Davidson, Managing Director of End Rape on Campus, tells Huffington Post.
Another possibility for her Thursday speech is that DeVos might have the Department of Education stop publicly disclosing which schools are under investigation for possibly violating Title IX in handling sexual assault complaints.