Betsy DeVos Has A Plan To Make Life Easier For Campus Rapists
Earlier this month, Amway saleswoman/Longtime GOP Donor/Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced her changes to the rules for Title IX sexual assault complaints on campus, with the goal of making it easier for sexual assailants and sexual harassers to get away with shit. Why? Because why should Donald Trump be the only one getting away with walking up to women and grabbing them by the pussy? When you're rich they just let you. Why, that's classism at its very worst.
Obama-era rules made it easier for victims to report assaults and harassment and held the schools responsible for dealing with harassment and assault that occurs off-campus as well — which made sense given how many students often live off-campus, and how often, in middle school and high school, harassment happens on the way home. But DeVos's new rules nixes the off-campus responsibility and also allows schools to ignore reports of assault that were not reported to the "right" person. So if you are assaulted and report it to a professor or teacher you trust rather than the official person in charge of hearing such complaints, they aren't required to investigate it.
These are bad rules, and the American Civil Liberties Union agrees — so they're taking DeVos to court to prevent them from being implemented.
Via The ACLU:
The DeVos standard redefines what constitutes sexual harassment and assault in disturbing ways. It excuses schools from investigating reports of harassment and assault that take place off campus or schoolgrounds, like at unofficial frat houses, at an apartment on the edge of the campus, or during a school's own study abroad program. This means that a school would not be obligated to help a middle school student harassed by another student on their way home from school. It means that a university can ignore a report of assault that occurred in off-campus housing — where the majority of college students live. Many commonplace scenarios like these would no longer require an adequate response.
The DeVos standard also allows colleges to ignore reports of assault or harassment unless they are made to the "right" official. Not even the biggest sexual abuse scandal in sports history — USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar's abuse of hundreds of gymnasts, including Michigan State students — would meet this standard, because many of the students reported the abuse to their athletic coaches, not the university's designated Title IX coordinator. Let that sink in.
That surely does sound stupid and ineffective.
The ACLU is arguing that these new standards mean taking sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination less seriously than other kinds of discrimination, like those based on "race, national origin, or disability."
In creating a higher threshold for only sex-based discrimination, DeVos has expressed an inherent skepticism for such claims, implying that students who report sexual assault or harassment should not be treated equally to students complaining of assaults or harassment based on race, national origin, or disability. The DeVos double standard will prevent many students from reporting abuse, and will let schools off the hook too easily when they do. There's no basis in this country's civil rights laws for treating sex discrimination differently from discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, and disability.
Now, there is nothing wrong with thinking that people should be presumed innocent until found guilty, there is nothing wrong with investigating these claims. But these rules are clearly written by people who not only believe that lying about sexual assault is a far more common occurrence on-campus than actual assault, but that being sexually assaulted has become a status symbol of some kind. Like, they think women are going around making false reports of sexual assault so they can be in the in-crowd. It's an incredibly convenient theory! It excuses the little darlings with bright futures while playing on shitty things people believe about women. That we are petty and shallow, that we crave attention, that we are cruel and vindictive — that we would get so upset about a man not giving us flowers after a one-night-stand (hot tip — no one wants that) that we would lie about having been raped just to get revenge.
In reality, coming forward about a sexual assault is an extremely bad time, even under the best of circumstances. All the Olivia Bensons in the world would not make it a good time.
Additionally, making it more difficult to report a sexual assault really is not going to make "false reporting" of the kind they are imagining less likely. Who is gonna have more trouble jumping through all of those hoops? Someone who has just been through a traumatic experience or one of these supposedly Biblically evil women falsely reporting to get revenge on men who didn't send them flowers or to increase their social status? I have a guess!
This is not to overlook the fact that men can be and are sexually assaulted and harassed — or that they could even falsely report a sexual assault. However, these rules were created in light of beliefs about the character of women.
Everyone wants a fair process for both the accuser and the accused, but that's not going to happen by absolving schools of their responsibility to deal with these things.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. In addition to her work at Wonkette, she also has a biweekly column at Dame. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse