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Democratic Women’s Working Group Calls for Department of Education to Fully Engage With Campus Survivors

***Anticipated changes to Title IX rules could come as soon as this month and are expected to undermine protections for campus survivors of sexual violence***

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Washington, October 15, 2018 | comments

Washington, DC - Today, on the one-year anniversary of the #MeToo movement going viral, Congresswomen Annie Kuster (NH-02), Lois Frankel (FL-21), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), and Jackie Speier (CA-14) urged Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to swiftly arrange meetings and fully engage with survivors of campus sexual violence before formally proposing new regulations governing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Secretary DeVos announced the Trump Administration’s decision to revoke Obama Administration guidelines to schools on September 7, 2017. While not yet formally made public, the draft Title IX regulations designed to replace the Obama-era guidance was leaked to the New York Times and was the subject of a report on August 29, 2018. The draft obtained by the Times marks a significant and deeply troubling departure from the previous guidance by, among other things, limiting the definition of sexual harassment as well as the scope of what schools would be required to investigate under Title IX.

In part, the letter reads: “We have spoken to countless survivors from our districts and across the country and have had the opportunity to hear firsthand the devastation and isolation survivors can feel after experiencing sexual violence on college campuses and in K-12 schools where they deserve to feel safe. We have also seen how Title IX guidance from the past three both Democratic and Republican Administrations has empowered colleges and universities to improve the resources provided to survivors and internal investigations after reports of sexual violence are made.”

Statistics show that one in five women and one in 16 men will experience sexual assault during their college years, yet incidents of sexual violence remain the most underreported crimes on school campuses.

“It is very concerning to us that a broad spectrum of survivors and survivor advocacy organizations have yet to be consulted about new regulations that will directly impact survivors’ ability to pursue an education free from sexual violence as guaranteed by federal law,” the Congresswomen continued. “To that end, we again urge the Department of Education to actively seek feedback from survivors and survivor advocacy organizations before issuing any new regulations on Title IX.”

Reps. Frankel, Lawrence, and Speier comprise the leadership of the Democratic Women’s Working Group. Reps. Kuster and Speier are two of the co-chairs of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence.

Full text of the letter is below.

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October 15, 2018

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW

Washington, D.C. 20202

 

Dear Secretary DeVos:

As leaders of the Democratic Women’s Working Group of the House of Representatives and the fight against sexual violence in our schools, we call on the Department of Education to swiftly arrange meetings and fully engage with a broad range of survivors and survivor advocacy organizations before releasing new regulations on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX provides essential protections to student survivors and we must work to ensure that this critical federal law continues to afford students the opportunity to pursue an education free from the threat of sexual violence.

We have spoken to countless survivors from our districts and across the country and have had the opportunity to hear firsthand the devastation and isolation survivors can feel after experiencing sexual violence on college campuses and in K-12 schools where they deserve to feel safe. We have also seen how Title IX guidance from the past three both Democratic and Republican Administrations has empowered colleges and universities to improve the resources provided to survivors and internal investigations after reports of sexual violence are made.

However, our work is far from over. Statistics show that we have an epidemic of sexual violence on our college campuses and in K-12 schools. One in five women and one in sixteen men will experience sexual assault during their college years.[1] Further, approximately 17,000 sexual assaults were reported by K-12 students between 2011-2015 alone.[2] Even that staggering number fails to fully capture the breadth of this crisis because such incidents are severely underreported.[3] Additionally, students of color, students in the LGBTQI communities, and students with disabilities experience disproportionately higher incidents of sexual violence in schools. Most survivors of campus sexual assault know their attackers and fewer than ten percent of survivors in college will come forward, making it the most underreported crime on college campuses.[4] In fact, 34 percent of students who experience sexual assault drop out of college completely.[5] Behind each of those statistics are lives forever changed due to sexual violence. We must do everything in our power to stop this epidemic of sexual violence and keep our students safe. 

According to recent reports, the draft Title IX regulations that the Department of Education will soon release reflect a significant and deeply troubling departure from the interpretations of past Administrations. Additionally, it is very concerning to us that a broad spectrum of survivors and survivor advocacy organizations have yet to be consulted about new regulations that will directly impact survivors’ ability to pursue an education free from sexual violence as guaranteed by federal law. To that end, we again urge the Department of Education to actively seek feedback from survivors and survivor advocacy organizations before issuing any new regulations on Title IX.

Thank you for your urgent attention to this matter. We look forward to hearing your response.

Sincerely

 

[1] Lisak, David, Lori Gardinier, Sarah C. Nicksa, and Ashley M. Cote. "False Allegations of Sexual Assault: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases." Violence Against Women 16, no. 12 (2010): 1318-1334. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1077801210387747

2 McDowell, Robin, et.al. "Hidden Horror of School Sex Assaults Revealed by AP." AP NEWS. May 02, 2017. https://apnews.com/1b74feef88df4475b377dcdd6406ebb7.

3 McDowell, Robin, et.al. "Hidden Horror of School Sex Assaults Revealed by AP." AP NEWS. May 02, 2017. https://apnews.com/1b74feef88df4475b377dcdd6406ebb7.

4 United States of America. Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. The Sexual Victimization of College Women. By Bonnie S. Fisher, Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/182369.pdf.

5 Mengo, Cecilia and Beverly M. Black. “Violence Victimization on a College Campus: Impact on GPA and School Dropout.” Journal of College Student Retention Research, Theory, and Practice 18, no. 2 (2016): 234-248. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1521025115584750?journalCode=csra&



[1] Lisak, David, Lori Gardinier, Sarah C. Nicksa, and Ashley M. Cote. "False Allegations of Sexual Assault: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases." Violence Against Women 16, no. 12 (2010): 1318-1334. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1077801210387747

[2] McDowell, Robin, et.al. "Hidden Horror of School Sex Assaults Revealed by AP." AP NEWS. May 02, 2017. https://apnews.com/1b74feef88df4475b377dcdd6406ebb7.

[3] McDowell, Robin, et.al. "Hidden Horror of School Sex Assaults Revealed by AP." AP NEWS. May 02, 2017. https://apnews.com/1b74feef88df4475b377dcdd6406ebb7.

[4] United States of America. Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. The Sexual Victimization of College Women. By Bonnie S. Fisher, Francis T. Cullen, and Michael G. Turner. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/182369.pdf.

[5] Mengo, Cecilia and Beverly M. Black. “Violence Victimization on a College Campus: Impact on GPA and School Dropout.” Journal of College Student Retention Research, Theory, and Practice 18, no. 2 (2016): 234-248. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1521025115584750?journalCode=csra&

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