Betsy DeVos, the secretary of the Department of Education, has proposed plans to redefine both sexual assault on college campuses as well as how disciplinary actions are handled. Ultimately, power would be taken away from the survivors of sexual violence and handed over to the assaulters.
From her proposals, there are a few major statements that stand out. First, universities would be freed from taking responsibility for sexual assaults that occur off-campus. This puts students at risk should they experience sexual violence from a member of the university at an off-campus location.
Under these new policies, sexual assault cases may also be dismissed if a survivor doesn’t report to the right person in the chain of command. This is an issue in itself because many survivors first choose to confide in a friend or trusted adult while coming to terms with what happened to them. Ultimately, if they don’t report to the right person first, they could be hurting their chances for justice.
The third policy change to be implemented is that the sexual assault must be “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” so that it would deny a student their education. Trauma is handled differently by every single person. This policy would ultimately disregard a majority of traumatic experiences, as it suggests that the assault had to have happened multiple times or have become so severe to be deemed worthy of attention from the university.
As expected, these proposed changes did not come without backlash.
“These changes make me scared to be a college woman,” Leah Dobossy, 20, said. “To know that I am at risk of enduring one of the most traumatic experiences someone could possibly go through and I wouldn’t see any justice is so disheartening.”
Some people expressed their support for the changes, but an overwhelming amount of people slammed DeVos and the Department of Education, citing the MeToo movement in their comments.