Betsy DeVos Changes to Campus Assault Policy

My freshman Welcome Week at TCNJ consisted of meeting new people, participating in a countless amount of ice breakers and constantly being asked to define consent during sexual assault presentations. I know I don’t only speak for myself when I say that after a certain point, these discussions started to seem a little redundant. But after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos vocalized her desire to heighten the need for proof of assault on college campuses, it became clear that any support towards victims should never be taken for granted.

On September 7, Devos announced that some of the rights of victims needs to be given back to the accused, stating that “One sexual assault is too many,” and, “One person denied due process is too many.” DeVos plans to eliminate the Obama administration policy that gives rape victims a lower standard of proof by calling for clear and convincing evidence. She also believes that our definition of sexual assault needs to be reconsidered, as “If everything is harassment, then nothing is.”

This argument would be a lot more valid if sexual assault was a black and white issue, but unlike a broken leg, the pain cannot be operationalized or quantified. Someone who may not know what it’s like to feel violated shouldn’t suggest that we downplay the effects of any type of assault. As for advocating for the wrongfully accused, this should clearly be a goal for any type of crime and does not have to interfere with advocating for victims. The two are mutually exclusive.

For many victims, admitting that they have experienced sexual assault can be very humiliating. Instead of worrying if individuals are exaggerating their pain, let’s focus on helping those who are too afraid to voice it.

Having the urge to blame the victim can be part of human nature. We like to maintain the mindset that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people; it makes us feel control in an uncontrollable world. The sooner we accept that we live in an unjust world, the sooner we can stop asking rape victims what they wore to the party or how much they had to drink.

Rape victims are already marginalized, but in the past few years a lot has been done to combat this, especially on college campuses. Betsy DeVos, let’s not reverse this progress.

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