On July 16, the Chicago Tribune’s Editorial Board called for Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to require employers and educational institutions to forgo their own internal responses and turn over reports of sexual assault to the police.
This proposal — which would require schools and employers to shirk their legal obligations to survivors of sexual assault — flies in the face of federal civil rights law and decades of U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Under Title IX and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, schools and employers must take measures to address sexual violence, a form of discrimination that interferes with individuals’ ability to access academic and employment opportunities. In order to fulfill their obligations, institutions are required to provide survivors with accommodations and, if necessary, take disciplinary action against their perpetrators.
I know this firsthand: When I was a student at Georgetown University, a student who lived in my dorm sexually assaulted me. Like most victims, I did not call the police. I feared the police officers would blame me for my assault. I also knew that prosecutors rarely bring charges, particularly when the victim was intoxicated, and that conviction rates are low. Just think about the likes of Brock Turner, the Stanford University swimmer who was let off the hook for raping a woman — with witnesses — with little more than a slap on the wrist.
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