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Campus Sexual Assault Policies Must Keep Women Safe

One in four women in college has reported being sexually assaulted. Now Betsy DeVos’ and her Department of Education may make it harder for these young ladies to get justice, and we are outraged.   

The department is re-examining the investigative processes which some believe are unfairly balanced toward the victim. Candice E. Jackson, who leads the Department’s Office of Civil Rights, said in most investigations there is “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman. Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’”

Jackson later apologized, but given the normalization of misogynistic political rhetoric and the downplaying of disturbing sexual assault allegations by none other than our Commander in Chief, it’s not surprising that she made the statement or that the newly helmed Department of Education would be interested in reversing the Obama administration’s policies aimed at reducing sexual assault. It appears we are moving from real solutions and empathy for survivors toward victim blaming and even empathy for perpetrators. If that is not representative of rape culture, then what is?

For more than 30 years, we at the Black Women’s Health Imperative have worked to improve the health and wellness of our nation’s 21 million Black women and girls – physically, emotionally and financially.  This includes elevating the conversation about sexual health and advocating for policies that keep women safe. 22 percent of Black women and almost 19 percent of white women between the ages of 18 and 24 have experienced rape at some point in her life. And there is no worse feeling than the shame of rape except the shame of not having that rape taken seriously.

We understand and refute any injustice done to a person who has been unfairly accused. However, upholding due process does not equate to dismantling protections for sexual misconduct. We ask that the Department of Education affirm the experiences of women who have been assaulted and assure women who have not yet come forward that their cases will be processed swiftly, compassionately and justly.