By Vy Nguyen
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” – Title IX
Title IX is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools and federally-funded educational programs and activities. In 2011, the Dear Colleague letter from the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights stated that sexual assault should be considered a form of sexual harassment, and thus prohibited under Title IX.
On November 16th, Betsy DeVos, the United States Secretary of Education, has drafted changes in Title IX, a statute that prevents gender discrimination in schools and federally-funded educational programs and activities. The proposed rules would no longer require schools to investigate sexual assault cases which take place in areas other than classrooms, hallways, and school-funded events. This excludes harassment and assault occurring online, at sororities and fraternities, in living spaces such as dormitories, and at games or off-campus events. Schools’ legal responsibility to respond to any sexual harassment reports are restricted. The definition scope of sexual assault defined in Title IX would also be limited and shrunk under the new changes.
DeVos has also complained that Title IX does not provide enough support for students accused of sexual assault– this mindset diverts focus and resources from victims.
These changes will affect not just college students, but any student in the US all the way down to kindergarteners. Regardless of gender identification, nobody is completely immune to sexual assault, which definition should not be limited to rape. No victims should have to relive their trauma every day, have to cross their abusers in the hallway, or wait endlessly for their investigation to conclude. No students should have to go to school with the fear of being unprotected and unsafe, and by proposing these changes, DeVos has indirectly furthered the victim-blaming process and once again reminded any sexually abused victim that their voices will be always be suppressed in any way.
To Betsy DeVos (and anybody out there): It is not a scary time for men in America, it is only a scary time for men who have sexually assaulted people. Period.