DeVos consulted accused rapists and men's rights activists while writing the new rules telling colleges how to handle sexual assault.
After getting rid of Obama-era guidance advising colleges and universities on how to handle allegations of sexual assault on campus, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is reportedly about to release new rules that will make it even harder for victims of sexual violence to get justice.
According to The Washington Post, the new rules, which are slated to be released before Thanksgiving, would expand the rights of the accused, restrict the definition of sexual harassment, and give colleges the go-ahead to raise the standard of proof needed to find a student guilty of sexual assault or harassment.
The most significant change is that under DeVos’ rules, students accused of sexual misconduct will be given the chance to cross-examine their accusers through an attorney or adviser — a potentially traumatic process that could discourage victims from coming forward.
While the Obama-era guidance defined sexual harassment as “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” sources told The Post that the new rules define it as “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.”
In other words, a victim of sexual harassment would not only need to prove that the sexual harassment happened, but also that it was an especially bad case of harassment.
The new guidelines are also expected to reduce liability for colleges and universities, making it even easier for institutions to evade accountability if they fail to properly investigate accusations of sexual assault on campus.
News of the upcoming guidance prompted an immediate backlash among women’s rights advocates, social media users, and politicians alike.
“This is horrific,” Planned Parenthood wrote. “[Betsy DeVos] is determined to make it harder than ever for survivors of sexual assault to seek justice on campus.”
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California slammed the new guidance, saying it “encourages victim blaming and blatantly ignores the painful stories of #MeToo.”
“It takes us backward,” he added.
In fact, while she was drafting the guidance, DeVos actually reached out to accused rapists and so-called “men’s rights activists” — including at least one group that the Southern Poverty Law Center identified as a hate group promoting male supremacy.
That’s who DeVos looked to for advice on reforming campus sexual assault guidelines that will affect millions of people.
Time and time again, the Trump administration and its Republican allies have made it clear that they don’t believe victims, don’t take accusations of sexual violence seriously, and don’t think credible allegations of sexual violence should disqualify someone from sitting on the Supreme Court or serving as president.
To make matters even worse, some have suggested that the timing of the new guidance — which is expected to be unveiled right before the holidays — is part of a strategic ploy to slip under the radar of the public and the press, and minimize the ability of student activists to organize a response.
Apparently, DeVos is already anticipating a severe backlash. But instead of listening to the concerns of those who will be affected, she’s trying to silence them.
Published with permission of The American Independent.