How Title IX Has Changed Under the Trump Administration

*Trigger Warning: The following article will discuss an individual's experience with sexual assault. This may be triggering to readers with similar experiences.*

 

“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything….Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” These are the nauseating words of none other than President Donald Trump, the leader of our country, and the man who is supposed to inspire us all. That quote is just one of thousands of offensive things Donald Trump has said or done to women. In 2018, Trump mocked Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Brett Kavanaugh who sexually assaulted her. According to Trump, it was a travesty that Kavanaugh and his family were in pain. In Trump’s eyes, Kavanaugh was the victim, not Ford, the woman who was assaulted. This is because Trump himself is a predator just like Kavanaugh. Our President has been accused by at least 22 women of various kinds of sexual misconduct, so it is no wonder that he changed the Title IX laws.

From the beginning of Donald Trump’s campaign five years ago to his current re-election efforts, I have hated Trump with every bone in my body. I think that he is a racist, homophobic, sexist, badly-spray-tanned monster. He has done countless things that have made him a terrible excuse for a human being. But what pushed me over the edge and deepened my hatred for him is that Trump and his Administration changed the Title IX laws. Title IX is a 48-year-old law prohibiting sexual discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funding. It is the law that determines how universities and K-12 schools handle issues of sexual assault, sexual discrimination, and discrimination of sexuality and gender. As a victim of rape, I, along with many other survivors of rape and sexual assault, have been personally upset by the Trump Administrations changes to Title IX and their clear indifference toward survivors. These changes are the strongest driving forces behind my belief that Donald Trump cannot be reelected next week. 

During my sophomore year of high school, I was raped by a boy in my grade. If I was raped today, under the Trump Administration, and put in the same position as I was three years ago, I may not have been given the justice I know I deserved. Rape is something that changes a person forever. I was physically and emotionally traumatized, but a small silver lining was that I had the support of the Obama-Biden Administration’s Title IX laws. My high school did not protect my rapist, instead they asked him to leave my school. The laws in 2018 ensured I did not need to see my rapist at my school ever again. I was heard and believed during one of the most upsetting times in my life. 

The changes to Title IX will make the United States go back “to the days when rape and harassment in schools were ignored and swept under the rug,” according to the National Women’s Law Center. At one point, Title IX protected victims of sexual misdemeanors like myself.  Federally funded institutions were taught to start a case by believing the complainants, instead of starting neutral. The Obama-Biden Administration made sure schools addressed cases of sexual misdemeanor as matters of civil rights. Institutions knew that if there was not compliance, federal funding was to be removed. These are just two ways in which the old Title IX laws protected victims. But now, the new changes have taken away that protection. 

On August 14th, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos officially changed the laws of Title IX. Under the new Title IX laws, the accused will be given more protection. In order words, those who are accused of sexual assault are now being coddled by our laws. When someone is accused, they are allowed a live hearing with the accuser where they are both cross-examined by each other. When I was raped, even hearing the name of my perpetrator made me become weak in the knees and blood rushed to my face. Today, three years later, I still struggle to digest his name. The fact that the law now says that I would need to sit in the same room, and look my rapist in the eye as he cross-examines me, gives me goosebumps. Additionally, schools now rely on “clear and convincing proof.” This means that evidence in a trial must be substantially more likely to be true than not in order for the victim to win. 

One of the most heart-wrenching changes to Title IX is the change to the definition of sexual harassment. The Trump Administration has made the definition of sexual harassment far narrower. It must be “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity.” According to Dana Bolger, a co-founder of Know-Your IX, a campaign against sexual violence in schools, rape may not fall under this definition because a one-time rape may not be considered severe enough and will therefore be dismissed. Schools are now in the position to determine the severity and effects of a rape. 

A few months after my rape, I wrote an unsent letter to my rapist, a guy who used to be my friend. “Do you care I cry myself to sleep?” I wrote, “Do you care that I had to get a therapist? Do you care that I didn’t eat a lot after what happened? Do you care that I quit lacrosse? Do you care that I cry when I look in the mirror? Do you care that my grades dropped? Do you care that I am no longer fit to volunteer at the suicide hotline? Do you care that I am crying and shaking right now? Do you care that I don’t trust guys anymore? Do you care that I’ve decided I will never find anyone who loves me? Do you care that people treat me differently?” These were just some of the ways being rape affected me. How can a school determine whether or not any of those are “severe"? It should not be up to someone else to determine the effects of sexual assault. It should be up to the survivor. 

In absolute contrast, under the Obama-Biden Administration, the harassment definition was more open. It was defined as, “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that can create a hostile environment if it is sufficiently serious.” Joe Biden said on his and Obama’s work dealing with sexual assault: “We are the first administration to make it clear that sexual assault is not just a crime, it can be a violation of a woman's civil rights.” Knowing that Joe Biden, the possible future President of the United States, advocates for women who have been assaulted is so comforting.

Sexual assault victims should not be afraid to come forward because Title IX, something intended to protect survivors, is now protecting their perpetrators. Sexual assault victims should not be afraid to come forward because their experience may not be considered “severe” enough. Joe Biden has promised to “put a quick end” to the new Title IX laws. He knows that shaming and silencing survivors is unethical. If you vote for Joe Biden, you are voting to give a voice back to those who are sexually discriminated against. If your little sister, cousin, wife, best friend, future children, and so on, were ever harmed sexually, you would want to make sure that they were given a voice to be heard and given the chance to receive justice. Vote Joe Biden.