I wish Betsy DeVos could take some time to speak to people who have been sexually assaulted. I wish Betsy Devos could take some time to speak to people who have been on my side of the Title IX process. I wish Betsy DeVos didn’t worry so much about rapists and perpetrators and how their actions will affect them, but I guess there’s only so much we can do to make her listen.
I could tell her about the night I was raped, while I was in and out of consciousness. But she would only focus on the fact that I had been drinking that night. I could tell her about how I couldn’t go to classes because seeing him threw me into hysterics. But she would only focus on the fact that he deserved to be in the classroom just as much as I. I could tell her about how thankful I was for the support I received from Willamette’s Title IX team, and how even though my case was dragged on, it was as fast as they could go. But she would only focus on how quickly and efficiently working to find a verdict only causes stress to the accused.
The Trump Administration’s decision to revoke his predecessor’s “Dear Colleague Letter” just attests to the fact that Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump could not care less about sexual assault survivors. DeVos argues that the system is unjust for the accused and hopes to revise the current law so the process can be “fair and impartial, giving everyone more confidence in its outcomes”. However, the “Dear Colleague Letter” provides guidance stating that “…the school’s inquiry must in all cases be prompt, thorough, and impartial.”
In addition, it’s been studied that only 2-8 percent of these accusations are false (as reported by Rape Victims Advocates). DeVos fails to see that the guidance provided by the Obama Administration is just and fair, as well as being the best possible system for any higher education institution to implement.
I couldn’t walk into Goudy by myself without having an anxiety attack or breaking into tears. I had to drop out of a class because he was in it. I couldn’t focus in my other classes because of constant flashbacks. I couldn’t walk around campus alone without having to constantly look behind my back. Despite this, I would not want to speak to police officers. I would not want to go through the lengthy and scary process of a lawsuit, especially in the middle of my schooling. Through the Title IX process, I was guaranteed a fast and efficient justice system that ensured my education would be disrupted at the most minimal level possible.
The most important aspect of Title IX is that the claimant and defendant are able to receive a verdict (responsible or not responsible) within 60 working days. The average sexual assault trial takes months to finish and, according to RAINN, “out of every 1000 instances of rape, only 13 cases get referred to a prosecutor, and only seven cases will lead to a felony conviction”. This is daunting and deters victims from reporting sexual assault.
In addition, the Title IX process is not only crucial to ensuring the protection of student’s education, but also their safety as well. Victims should not be forced to sit through a class with their offender. They should not be forced to power through the emotional stress of constantly seeing and being near their offender. It’s disgusting that our current administration wants to revoke support to the students and elevate the already daunting process of reporting sexual assault.
But let’s talk about something unlikely. For the 2-8 percent of cases that have been found to be false, Title IX can also benefit them. They are granted a quick and efficient process so if they are wrongly accused they will not undergo a large amount of stress as well. The preponderance level used in Title IX cases (meaning there has to be at least a 51 percent chance that the accused action was committed) is not an unheard of practice in legal matters.
As someone who has been through the Title IX process and has gone through the effects of sexual assault on campus, I’m heartbroken that our current administration would be so willing to revoke the safety of survivors. I’m heartbroken for future victims who will need to deal with the repercussions of these changes and face even more difficulties in an already difficult process.