Dear Betsy Devos,
When you stripped important Title IX protections for transgender students, I was mad. As a person who has many close friends who are transgender, I was worried about what it meant for them. I felt like it was a direct attack on some of the people I care about the most in my life. However, when I heard that there have been talks about you scrapping important Title IX protections for victims of sexual assault, I felt directly attacked. As a person who is a survivor, I am absolutely enraged that future victims may not receive justice. I am enraged that even more perpetrators will get away with such a heinous crime. I am enraged that you are forgetting about the lives of the victims.
You are being heavily criticized for the fact that survivor's groups and men’s rights groups, such as the National Coalition of Men, a group known for posting pictures of women online that they think are falsely accusing men, will be given an equal amount of speaking time with you. While everyone has the right to voice their feelings and opinions, I want you to know something. Giving both groups equal speaking time creates a false equivalency between the two. According to RAINN, 11.2 % of all college students will be sexually assaulted on a college campus. On the other hand, wrongful sexual assault allegations represent as little as 2 percent of all of the allegations. That means 98% of sexual assault allegations are real and valid. Based on that, I do not see how a person can equate the two problems. From my point of view, I see the wrong group of people taking precedence, as usual.
I also want you to know that the main objection these men’s rights groups have with the changes Obama made in Title IX is the fact that he lowered the standard of evidence from proof beyond a reasonable doubt to preponderance of evidence. The former means that a judge or jury is absolutely sure that someone is guilty; this is the standard of evidence used in criminal law cases. The latter means that, essentially, a judge or jury is 51% sure that someone is guilty; this is used in a civil law case and the verdict is decided in favor of one over the other. If you really think about it, raising the standard is giving approval to treating victims of sexual assault on college campuses, not only differently from all other victims not on a college campus, but differently than all other victims of discrimination prohibited under our anti-discrimination civil rights laws. Does that sound fair? I didn't think so.
As a survivor, I am asking you from the bottom of my heart to not scrap this protection. Please do not prioritize a group of men who look to mock victims and then blame them for what was done to them. Don’t give preferential treatment to a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center says works to undermine domestic violence laws and equates the experience of being falsely accused to that of a sexual assault survivor. If you will not do this for me, do it for my friends who are survivors of campus rape. Most of the friends I have who have been assaulted on campus said that they never reported it. They said it was because they did not think anyone would believe them because no one ever believes the victim. If the standard of evidence is raised, even fewer college students will report their sexual assaults and this epidemic of campus sexual assault will only worsen. You would not want that, would you?
The way you have handled the epidemic of campus sexual assault over these last few days has made me feel a lot of things. I have felt confused by your ignorance and hurt by your choices. As a friend to victims who still have cases open, I am worried about what it will mean for them if your rescind Obama’s Title IX protections. My heart breaks to think that you may be making it very difficult for another survivor to seek justice, the justice I never got. However, out of all the emotions that I have felt over these last few days, surprise was never one of them. This is because, when it comes down to it, I saw this coming. After all, you are a part of an administration that is lead by a man who thinks it is okay to grab a woman by her genitals.
A concerned survivor
Lead Image Credit: The New York Times