As the Sexual Assault Victim Advocate at The Bridge to Hope, I have many concerns regarding Betsy DeVos’ proposed rules that will change the way universities meet their Title IX legal requirements.
The New York Times reported the reforms are the first regulations of this kind since the enactment of the 1972 anti-sex discrimination law. The Department of Education published a proposed regulation that would dramatically alter schools’ responsibilities under Title IX, a federal law that bars recipients of federal funds from engaging in sex discrimination.
The new regulations require full hearings and cross-examination of sexual assault victims. They raise the standard of evidence to hold a student accused of sexual assault accountable.
Under DeVos’ new rules, the University of Wisconsin-Stout would not be required to investigate harassment and assaults that occur in off-campus fraternity houses and other off-campus residences.
The rules would make schools less safe by narrowing the definition for what counts as sexual misconduct, creating barriers for students to report these incidents and limiting the responsibility of schools to respond.
Campus sexual assault remains a significant problem across the country. One in five women and one in 20 men are reported to experience some form of sexual assault during their time in college. Although a large share of students experience sexual assault, 80 percent of student survivors choose not to report their assault out of fear of retaliation or privacy concerns, among other reasons.
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Weakening Title IX protections could further impede survivors’ access to justice and would undermine society’s advances toward increased gender equity in educational and professional spaces.
In order to create these regulations, the Department must go through a process known as “notice and comment,” which allows members of the public to voice their opinions on the Department’s proposed rules.
The Department of Education has announced that notice and comment will begin in March.
I highly encourage students, families and community members to use their voice and submit a comment. To do so, there are step-by-step instructions on the Know Your IX website: www.knowyourix.org.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, or have any questions regarding the proposed changes to Title IX, please reach out to an advocate at The Bridge to Hope.
The Bridge to Hope has advocates available 24/7 via their crisis and text line. You can reach an advocate by either calling 1-800-924-9918, or texting at 715-505-3640.