Twitter slams Betsy DeVos' decision to roll back campus sexual assault protections.

On Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos delivered a devastating speech about the department's plans to roll back Title IX enforcement.

Implemented in 1972, Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities that receive federal funding. It was instrumental in providing equal opportunity for female student-athletes and in administrative matters. Just as importantly, however, is its power to protect students seeking justice in sexual assault and harassment cases.

It's that last part, about harassment and assault, that DeVos went after.


The Obama administration ramped up Title IX enforcement by instructing schools and administrators to take active steps to fight campus assault. The Trump administration aims to revert those changes.

"The truth is that the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students," DeVos said at George Mason University. "Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved."

While no official policy was announced, DeVos indicated the department plans to solicit feedback and implement new guidelines in the coming months.

Women's rights advocates and organizations geared toward fighting sexual assault made their presence known, both online and in person.

The day before DeVos' speech, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) rallied in the rain outside the Department of Education.

Groups like NARAL Pro-Choice were on the ground, out in full force.

And a host of other groups weighed in with fact sheets, graphics, and petitions, using the hashtag #StopBetsy.

The voices that weren't heard nearly enough in all this, however, were those of the survivors of sexual assault.

A look at Twitter uncovered a sense of betrayal and re-traumatization among assault survivors. Many noted the low percentage of reported assaults that turn out to be false, while others offered support to classmates, colleagues, and total strangers who've shared similar traumatizing experiences.

Everybody is against sexual assault, right? That's a no-brainer. Yet actions like this from the Trump administration seem to try to level the playing field and treat victims and assailants as equals.

As comedy writer Nick Jack Pappas noted, most of us probably would have thought that condemning white supremacists was a similarly easy move.

ProPublica education reporter Annie Waldman unleashed a detailed thread outlining DeVos' attacks on some of the Department of Education's core functions in civil rights and consumer protections. In other words, the Title IX news is just the latest in a long line of disappointing moves.

Whether it's Title IX enforcement (which offers protections to people of all genders), ensuring that trans people aren't discriminated against, protecting students from scams, or a host of other issues, the DeVos Department of Education is a proverbial wrecking ball.

There are actionable things DeVos could have proposed if the concern was really to protect against false reports.

For instance, in a 2016 TED Talk, Jessica Ladd outlined a simple and secure way to protect survivors as well as the due process of the person being accused. That's the type of innovation that could actually address the concerns DeVos raised. Instead, she seems intent on taking a back to the drawing board approach to addressing campus assault that's likely to do little more than ensure that fewer students receive justice.

For more information on how you can help protect Title IX, check out the following groups: Know Your IX, End Rape on Campus, the National Women's Law Center, Ultraviolet, and the Inanna Project.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."