10 Attorneys General On Why Betsy DeVos’ Sexual Assault Policies Could be Devastating

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To the horror of survivors and their advocates, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Thursday that she’ll be doing away with Obama-era Title IX guidelines on campus sexual assault investigations. DeVos hinted at her plans back in July, when she met with both rape survivors and men’s rights activists who felt Obama’s guidelines were unfair to the people accused of sexual violence. After the meetings, she said changes to the current policies needed to come quickly: “We need to do this right, we need to protect all students and we need to do it quickly.”

With the Title IX guidelines in jeopardy, a group of 20 Democratic state attorneys general were compelled to act. On July 19, they wrote a powerful letterto DeVos urging her to keep the current sexual assault guidelines in place.

“While we recognize that there is a great deal more that can be done to protect students and agree on the importance of ensuring that investigations are conducted fairly, a rushed, poorly-considered effort to roll back current policies sends precisely the wrong message to all students,” they wrote. “Yet there is every indication that is exactly the approach your Department is taking.”

In the wake of DeVos’ Thursday announcement, those same attorneys general were asked two important questions. Here’s what they had to say.

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Peter F. Kilmartin, Rhode Island

If you could say one thing to Betsy DeVos about Title IX sexual assault policy, what would it be?

Secretary DeVos has shown little compassion for victims of college sexual assault and has shown she is tone deaf to the legal and emotional consequences of abandoning the protections put in place to help victims of sexual assault. Turning a deaf ear is not going to make the problem go away, but it will have a chilling effect on victims who fear coming forward because there are no protections in place.

If you could say one thing to sexual assault survivors right now, what would it be?

Victims of sexual assault should report the crime to law enforcement. There is a misconception that reporting sexual assault to the police automatically means you must go forward with criminal charges. That is not the case. Reporting sexual assault as soon as possible to law enforcement gives victims access to the medical and victim services resources they may need to recover from the assault, and allows police and prosecutors to gather and preserve evidence that will be critical to a successful prosecution should the victim choose to go forward.

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Eric Schneiderman, New York

If you could say one thing to Betsy DeVos about Title IX sexual assault policy, what would it be?

Students can’t learn in environments where they don’t feel safe. Job Number One for Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education should be protecting the rights and safety of students. Sexual assault is all too prevalent, but has no place on our campuses—and the Department of Education should be doing more, not less, to keep students safe.

If you could say one thing to sexual assault survivors right now, what would it be?

What happened to you is unconscionable. But know that we have your back and will use every tool we have to ensure you’re protected.

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