This is just such a bad move.
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.
DeVos: "If everything is harassment, then nothing is." https://t.co/N7i572QwZn— NBC News (@NBC News)1504802837.0
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.
Today at the Department of Ed, I called on @BetsyDeVosED to protect Title IX guidance for campus sexual assault sur… https://t.co/LQhFDY2CLe— Kirsten Gillibrand (@Kirsten Gillibrand)1504740782.0
Groups like NARAL Pro-Choice were on the ground, out in full force.
Betsy DeVos is threatening rollbacks of Title IX protections for students. We're fighting back. #StopBetsy https://t.co/usU97Eis1z— NARAL Pro-Choice VA (@NARAL Pro-Choice VA)1504800994.0
And a host of other groups weighed in with fact sheets, graphics, and petitions, using the hashtag #StopBetsy.
The Trump White House wants to shift power away from survivors and to rapists. We won't be silent, not today, not u… https://t.co/vxM4m9GDkJ— UltraViolet (@UltraViolet)1504793380.0
Our statement on today's attack on the Title IX sexual assault guidance: https://t.co/LrQjfvBTbg #StopBetsy #INeedIX https://t.co/J73z3lHdCP— National Women's Law Center (@National Women's Law Center)1504806963.0
#DearBetsy if you are not centering survivors of sexual assault, you are not doing your job. #StopBetsy #INeedIX— Feminist Majority (@Feminist Majority)1504795953.0
Please consider signing this petition to demand Title IX protections for girls and women-help us #StopBetsy! https://t.co/zYzBB10mCd— Amee Vanderpool (@Amee Vanderpool)1504799186.0
Make no mistake: @BetsyDeVosED is seeking to silence the voices of survivors of sexual assault. My statement:… https://t.co/3ZKkHDniqW— Vanita Gupta (@Vanita Gupta)1504812575.0
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.
Some thoughts on #DearBetsy, #TitleIX, #INeedIX #SupportSurvivors #WeBelieveYou https://t.co/dRdudWe7A2— Julia Canney (@Julia Canney)1504804448.0
The rights of college & K-12 students who are survivors of sexual violence, black women, trans students, disabled s… https://t.co/ra0cGArXF4— Venkayla Haynes (@Venkayla Haynes)1504799047.0
.@BetsyDeVosED just basically "all sides mattered" survivors and their rapists. #StopBetsy #INeedIX #DearBetsy— Tiffany Wang (@Tiffany Wang)1504801392.0
I feel physically ill. Betsy DeVos has elevated the dishonest bleating of Men's Rights Activists above sexual assault survivors.— Ella Dawson (@Ella Dawson)1504807336.0
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.
When you thought it couldn't get worse than siding with white supremacists, now the Trump administration is siding with rapists. #StopBetsy— Nick Jack Pappas (@Nick Jack Pappas)1504803521.0
Rapists are more of a problem than grizzlies. #StopBetsy— Eugene Gu, MD (@Eugene Gu, MD)1504807859.0
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.
DeVos has announced new approach to #TitleIX, which covers campus rape cases. This is part of a larger assault on edu rules⚡THREAD⚡— Annie Waldman (@Annie Waldman)1504804955.0
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.
The reporting system that sexual assault survivors want: https://t.co/tXLT85mkD3 @JessicaHLadd https://t.co/hREwoTYHot— TED Talks (@TED Talks)1504807516.0