Sexual assault survivors and their advocates were devastated on Friday when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced an end to Obama-era Title IX guidelines protecting survivors of campus sexual assault, including the 2011 “Dear Colleagues Letter.” DeVos’ Education Department will work toward developing a new set of rules—and in the meantime, released some interim guidelines.
“As I said earlier this month, the era of rule by letter is over,” DeVos said in a statement. “The Department of Education will follow the proper legal procedures to craft a new Title IX regulation that better serves students and schools.”
While critics argued the Obama-era guidelines were unfair to those accused of misconduct, supporters felt they made it easier for survivors to come forward and seek justice. (When DeVos was contemplating changes to the policies back in July, campus sexual assault survivors rallied outside her office.)
Glamour asked women who are students or recent graduates how they feel about DeVos’ announcement. Here’s what they had to say.
Jessica Riker, 25, University of California, Irvine
I feel disappointed and angered that women’s rights are being rolled back. It’s inexcusable to take away a law that has given women on college campuses across the country the security to come forward and have their experiences investigated.
Marjorie Kirk, 22, University of California, Davis School of Law
As a former student journalist and now young law student interested in advocating for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, this step disappoints and scares me. It is infuriating and shocking to all advocates and survivors that we are still fighting for equal ground in this area, when we had only recently made small inroads for a more effective system. Betsy DeVos’ withdrawal of the 2011 Dear Colleague letter disregards the interests of survivors of traumatic crimes, and reflects her incompetency for the role she was appointed to—not earned. Her actions show she has certainly not earned the trust that survivors and advocates placed in her when they met a few months ago in response to the now realized fear that the hard-fought protections provided by Title IX would be reneged. Even with the Dear Colleague Letter, there were still problems with the system that advantaged perpetrators. Repeal of this letter would aggravate an already disproportionate system that puts survivors in an even more vulnerable position, which can and will be taken advantage of by their perpetrators and their administrators who will fight to protect the institutions’ interests above all else.
Martha Neuman, 21, Northeastern University
The announcement from Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education is an offense to student survivor advocates who have worked hard to protect the rights of survivors on college campuses. This announcement demonstrates to survivors and students that this administration does not have our backs and disrespects the rights we have fought for. But we will continue to work to make our campuses safe places; no matter what DeVos says, Title IX is law and we will fight for its protection.
Hope Burnette, 21, Missouri State University
Every day on campus I see hundreds of women who have been sexually assaulted at least once, and 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. This is only going to weaken what little voice we already feel we have against those who have assaulted us, and give strength to those who still believe that “boys will be boys” is a valid argument for groping a woman without her permission.
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