Education Secretary Betsy DeVos would like to change how colleges and public schools handle sexual assault and harassment cases. The public comment period has ended and DeVos must now consider thousands of comments before issuing final rules on Title IX.
The proposed overhaul of Title IX promises to ensure a fair process for both parties involved and hold schools accountable, but local advocates say the changes would discourage sexual assault victims from coming forward.
Amelia Meyerhoff is investigating the sexual assault and rape climate on Cal Poly’s campus as a school project.
“So far, I’ve interviewed 43 survivors, and none of their cases have been validated by Title IX,” Meyerhoff said.
Meyerhoff is a sexual assault survivor herself but didn’t report because she feared she didn’t have enough hard evidence.
“Honestly, I’m thankful that I never went through it because almost all of the survivors that have mentioned Title IX have said that it has worsened their trauma,” Meyerhoff said.
She says the proposed Title IX changes could make the process more difficult for victims. Under the proposed changes, a university would no longer be responsible for students who are assaulted off campus, something advocates at RISE say could prevent more than 60 percent of students from reporting.
“That’s problematic for Cal Poly’s campus because the majority of students live off campus and we know that the majority of assaults happen in homes where people live off campus,” said Jane Pomeroy, RISE Associate Director.
The new rules would only allow a victim to report to a Title IX investigator.
“Forcing a student to report directly to Title IX investigators only is creating another barrier to services,” Pomeroy said.
DeVos also suggested a new opportunity to cross-examine victims.
“Which is very triggering,” Meyerhoff added. “I’m sure it would be a lot of questions that would arise from that cross-examination that are very invalidating and victim-blaming.”
The California State University Office of the Chancellor submitted a statement on the proposed changes , stating in part:
“We suspect that the Department’s well-intentioned effort to bring clarity to anti-discrimination laws, to ensure a prompt and fair remediation and resolution process, and to “empower students to hold their schools accountable” will actually have the opposite effect: confusion and frustration.”
Not everyone is against the proposed changes. A presumption of innocence and right to an appeal has been added, which appeals to the fairness of students who are accused of misconduct.