Survivor slams DeVos campus sexual abuse rules

Survivor and executive director of "End Rape on Campus" Jess Davidson said the new definition of sexual harassment under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's new sexual abuse on campus rules would force survivors to put their education second and lead to less reporting.

Posted: Dec 12, 2018 2:55 AM
Updated: Dec 12, 2018 3:28 AM

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has issued a new set of proposed rules on Title IX regarding the responsibilities of primary and secondary schools, as well as universities, to address sexual assault and harassment.

The rules, issued Friday, 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.

DeVos speaks of of her concern for sexual assault survivors, but her words ring hollow. These proposed rules illustrate that her driving concern is not that less than 10% of college students report the sexual assault and harassment they experience. It's not that school administrators are not getting those reports to know what's happening on campus and prevent further violence. It's not that students are routinely subject to sexual assault and harassment by fellow students online or at bars or fraternities. And it's not the extraordinary and lifelong pain and trauma that children experience when they are raped or harassed.

None of that is what prompted DeVos to take a full-scale detour from decades of well-reasoned law and practice and upend long-established definitions of sexual harassment. Instead, she relies on myths that she is intent on perpetuating in federal policy.

Here are three of her favorites.

1. "Too many cases involve students and faculty who have faced investigation and punishment simply for speaking their minds or teaching their classes," DeVos said in a 2017 speech as she decried a failed system that did not serve survivors, accused students or educational institutions.

Without mention of a single such case, DeVos decided that it's freedom of speech and expression that needs protecting over the thousands of students who have been sexually harassed and assaulted -- and despite the fact that sexual violence is not a protected form of expression.

By narrowing the long-standing definition of sexual harassment -- "unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature" -- to include only behavior that is "severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive," she suggests that a 14-year-old student who feels uncomfortable due to suggestive comments by her teacher is not being harassed. These changes discourage young people who have endured sexual harassment from coming forward -- all to protect a mythical someone, somewhere, who didn't feel comfortable making a provocative comment in class.

2. What happens off campus stays off campus: DeVos' proposed rules suggest the only acts of violence that impact whether students feel safe and comfortable at school happen in classrooms, hallways or school events. Under her rules, schools may not be responsible for responding to incidents of assault or harassment that take place online or at bars, fraternities, off-campus apartments or away games.

So a school could dismiss a request for a change in class schedule from a seventh-grade student who is being sexually harassed online by her classmates. Or a college student who is sexually assaulted by a classmate at an off-campus apartment or campus bar might also have his complaint summarily dismissed by the school.

3. DeVos believes the greatest harm perpetrated in the campus sexual assault process is to the reputation and rights of the accused.

First, despite the attention paid to the Duke lacrosse case and the retracted Rolling Stone story about the University of Virginia, false accusations are rare. One out of 10 campus sexual assaults are reported, and generally only 2-10% of reports of sexual assault may be false, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

The number of false reports is miniscule in comparison to the more than 18% of all women who are sexually assaulted on campus and do not report it (and also the men, who are statistically more likely to face assault themselves than false allegations).

Regardless, DeVos has taken numerous steps to protect the accused and burden survivors. By narrowing the definition of sexual harassment and where it triggers school responsibility, she gives perpetrators latitude to engage in sexual misconduct, as long as it takes place off campus or is not both severe and pervasive.

She is pushing schools to adopt standards that make it harder for survivors to prove that they have been sexually assaulted, requiring schools to allow retraumatizing and unnecessary hurdles to be imposed on survivors (such as cross-examination at a live hearing) and telling schools that the accused must be believed throughout the grievance process -- unless the survivor demonstrates otherwise by clear and convincing evidence.

Secretary DeVos's mythical world is backwards. She has set up a rigged game of Chutes and Ladders, where those who are sexually assaulted constantly end up on a chute, and the accused constantly end up with a ladder.

Her proposed rules will soon be open for public notice and comment. It's up to us to dispel these myths, share our experiences and right the course to keep all students safe.

Huntsville
Scattered Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 90°
Florence
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 90°
Fayetteville
Broken Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
Decatur
Few Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 89°
Scottsboro
Scattered Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 78°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 48588

Reported Deaths: 1042
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6030162
Mobile4418137
Montgomery4339109
Tuscaloosa254448
Madison19078
Marshall186611
Shelby150924
Lee149437
Morgan12205
Baldwin111410
Walker105127
Elmore98919
Dallas9639
Franklin92216
Etowah88214
DeKalb8416
Chambers65727
Russell6570
Autauga65313
Butler64328
Tallapoosa61669
Unassigned58626
Limestone5741
Houston5526
Cullman5395
Lauderdale5376
Lowndes48022
St. Clair4692
Colbert4656
Pike4595
Escambia4528
Calhoun4365
Coffee4074
Covington39911
Jackson3742
Bullock37010
Barbour3672
Dale3621
Talladega3497
Hale33722
Marengo33011
Wilcox2968
Clarke2946
Winston2893
Chilton2872
Sumter28512
Blount2731
Pickens2556
Monroe2492
Marion24514
Randolph2449
Conecuh2277
Perry2091
Bibb2081
Macon2069
Choctaw20212
Greene1928
Henry1433
Crenshaw1273
Washington1277
Lawrence1170
Cherokee1127
Geneva920
Lamar811
Fayette781
Clay742
Coosa621
Cleburne411
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 57591

Reported Deaths: 710
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby12842214
Davidson12549138
Rutherford332638
Hamilton308837
Sumner180256
Williamson159115
Trousdale15055
Knox14719
Out of TN125610
Wilson109917
Putnam9897
Bradley8894
Robertson88213
Sevier8633
Unassigned8372
Lake6970
Tipton6746
Montgomery6587
Bledsoe6251
Bedford5959
Macon5466
Hamblen4224
Maury4203
Hardeman3814
Fayette3463
Madison3402
Loudon3081
Rhea2940
Blount2803
Dyer2743
McMinn25718
Cheatham2522
Dickson2430
Washington2120
Lawrence2026
Cumberland1964
Anderson1782
Sullivan1782
Lauderdale1723
Gibson1581
Jefferson1571
Monroe1466
Smith1392
Coffee1340
Cocke1260
Greene1232
Hardin1207
Obion1182
Haywood1112
Warren1060
Franklin1043
Marshall1042
Wayne990
Hickman980
McNairy911
Marion904
Giles801
Lincoln800
White803
Hawkins792
Carter771
DeKalb760
Roane750
Weakley691
Overton681
Campbell651
Grundy652
Henderson620
Claiborne610
Unicoi560
Chester530
Carroll511
Polk510
Grainger500
Crockett483
Henry480
Cannon450
Johnson440
Sequatchie430
Jackson410
Humphreys382
Meigs350
Perry350
Morgan291
Decatur280
Stewart260
Fentress250
Scott220
Union200
Houston190
Clay180
Moore170
Benton151
Hancock100
Lewis100
Pickett70
Van Buren70

 

 

Community Events