One-in-five women and one-in-16 men will be sexually assaulted while in college. More than 90 percent of the victims will not report the assault, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Title IX ensures that sexual assault reports that are received are taken seriously.
Title IX is a 1972 law that requires schools that receive federal funds not to discriminate based on sex. It covers discrimination based on sexual harassment, pregnancy, sexual violence, dating and domestic violence, stalking, and hate crimes. The Title IX law itself doesn’t mention sexual violence, but interpretations by the courts set an understanding that Title IX requires schools to address sexual violence.
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Thursday that the Department of Education plans to revamp Title IX guidelines. DeVos said the Obama Administration’s policies are not being rescinded, but eventually will be replaced, according to CBS News. DeVos wants to roll back protections of the accusers and give more rights to the accused, saying “if everything is harassment, then nothing is.”
The Obama Administration responded to high rates of sexual violence on campus in 2011 with a “Dear Colleague” letter, setting guidelines for investigation of sexual assault at federally funded universities. The guidelines lowered the standard of proof in sexual assault cases and allowed accusers to appeal not-guilty verdicts. They also specifically defined the role of university Title IX coordinators, demanding that they receive the resources and authority to address sexual assault reports and deal with discriminatory behavior.
DeVos’s changes would overturn Obama’s revisions, giving universities a more lenient policy on addressing sexual violence reports. This is a step in the wrong direction for sexual assault prevention on college campuses. Revamping Title IX to roll back protections for victims and to give the accused more rights is irresponsible and dangerous, especially with the prevalence of false reporting being only two to 10 percent.
Joey Croslin, chief human resources officer and Title IX coordinator at OCU, said the human resources department has done a lot of work in the past few years since the letter to ensure that the university is responding appropriately.
The human resources department just approved a non-discrimination policy last spring, and Croslin said the department strives to promote a healthy environment on campus and follow policies reflective of the university.
The issue is that many sexual assault victims feel like no one is listening. DeVos is proving them right.
Title IX is important. It’s essential. Revamping it in DeVos’s image would further deter students from reporting sexual assaults while emboldening their assaulters.
To help protect Title IX, donate to the It’s On Us initiative at gofundme.com/itsonus. The campaign allows educators and assault survivors to teach college campuses about sexual violence and what they can do to prevent it.
If students want to make a report, request assistance or inquire about Title IX at OCU, they are encouraged to email Croslin at email@example.com.