Guess Who DeVos Is Protecting With Her Latest Set of Sexual Assault Rules

Sexual assault is an epidemic on college campuses, and the rules punishing perpetrators for these crimes have never been adequate enough to help tackle the problem. Barack Obama’s Education Department attempted to give schools guidance on how to improve the situation and hold more rapists accountable, only to see the new secretary of education, Betsy Devos, alter the policy last year to make life easier for the accused.

Apparently, those initial steps weren’t enough, because she’s tinkering with the sexual assault policy. Once again, the changes are designed to help schools dodge accountability and give accused assaulters an easier time of avoiding any consequences. Forbes breaks down a few of the major changes included in the latest proposal by DeVos:

1. SHRINKING THE DEFINITION

Whereas Obama established sexual harassment to mean “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature [including] unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” DeVos is altering the definition to be “unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.”

Why does sexual assault have to be “severe, pervasive” and literally interfere with a victim’s education in order to be considered sexual assault, though? That’s a ridiculously high bar for something that needs to be addressed at all levels, not just the worst of the worst offenses.

 

2. SCHOOLS CHOOSE HOW MUCH EVIDENCE MATTERS

The Obama administration moved the threshold for schools to find students accused of sexual assault to a “preponderance” of evidence, meaning there didn’t need to be overwhelming evidence to hold someone responsible. DeVos will give schools the option of switching to a “clear and convincing” standard, which will make it all but impossible for anyone to be held accountable in he-said/she-said scenarios.

 

3. CROSS-EXAMINATION

DeVos wants to allow accused assaulters an opportunity to cross-examine their accusers. While a system that allows for a representative to ask questions seems appropriate, giving an attacker an opportunity to interrogate his victim sure seems like a recipe for threatening the victim’s safety or inflicting emotional abuse.

 

4. DECREASED RESPONSIBILITY FOR SCHOOLS

Under DeVos’s new proposals, educational institutions get let off the hook in a major way. Rather than having to be aware that sexual harassment is an ongoing problem in educational institutions and proactively addressing these issues, liability is only extended if the school’s response to incidents is “clearly unreasonable.”

Moving forward, schools can only be legally responsible for cases that were reported to a school official in a position to handle the charge. If, say, a student reports a rape to her RA or another staff member and that information is not passed along, the school can wipe its hands of all responsibility. Also, any incidents that happen on off-campus frats are also no longer considered under the jurisdiction of universities.

 

Take Action

DeVos’s plan is a terrible way to help victims obtain justice or even a sense of security on campus; instead, it sends a message to sexual assaulters that it’s business as usual and they shouldn’t expect to pay for their crimes.

Let’s continue to sign this popular Care2 petition urging DeVos to ditch her planned changes to sexual assault policy. There’s no guarantee that she’ll listen, but she needs to at least hear our opposition so that she can’t pretend that what she’s doing is in any way productive.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

53 comments

Sue L
Sue L2 days ago

When I just signed the petition on 11/16 there were only 4,136 signers. We can and must do better than this. DeVos doesn't know her head from a hole in the ground. We need to be making women safer from predatory men, not more easily harassed and assaulted.

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Olivia M
Olivia M2 months ago

signed

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Karen Martinez
Karen Martinez2 months ago

I'm sure that if something like this happened to someone close in her family, she'd be singing a different tune. Of course, this woman works for Donald "Grab them by the pussy" Trump. Fortunately, I'm adult enough to not wish that kind of event on any woman/girl regardless of to whom she is related. #DeVosmustGo #ImpeachTrump

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara2 months ago

women and men need to vote

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara2 months ago

th

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara2 months ago

suppose a student has been pressured for favours by a student, or by a staff member, is that allowable, or does this say that neither is allowed?

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara2 months ago

I do not understand these 'frat' things which i think should be banned as they are clearly about mixing with one gender only.

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Amparo Fabiana C
Amparo Fabiana C2 months ago

Feminism is just women's rights, we want respect, the same as men have. We are tired of the past of some men's behavior.

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Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga2 months ago

thx

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Angela K
Angela K2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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