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Title IX changes forecasted future for victims

by Alex Weaver - Lifestyles Editor
Tue, Oct 3rd 2017 09:30 pm

Sometimes it feels like all of the members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet are competing with each other to settle, once and for all, who is the most terrible of them all. Betsy DeVos is certainly throwing her hat into the ring with her decision to end the use of the “preponderance of the evidence” standard when investigating sexual assault cases.

ABC cited that the reason the Trump administration made this decision is that it “suggests a discriminatory purpose.”

Discriminatory against whom? 

Anyone can be sexually assaulted and yes, according to “Know Your IX,” Title IX does protect male survivors of sexual assault. So no, the law does not afford better protection to women than it does to men. Preponderance of the evidence is the same standard that civil court cases use. It is a legitimate way to determine guilt, and Title IX investigations are not criminal cases.

Currently, Title IX investigations give sexual assault survivors a way to escape from their abusers. Title IX offices advocate for survivors and give them a way to stay in school while avoiding their abusers. Because of Title IX, survivors are able to drop classes with their abusers in them, have their on-campus housing arrangements changed to avoid their abusers and Title IX offices will even try to work with financial aid to help students keep their scholarships if a survivor needs to drop a class or take time off of school as a result of what they’ve been through. 

By discarding the preponderance of the evidence standard, it will be much harder for survivors to get the resources that they need. Cornell Law School defines preponderance of the evidence as “a requirement that more than 50 percent of the evidence points to something.”

This is a sensical requirement for Title IX investigations. Sexual assault, especially on college campuses, often occurs in situations where both parties, and almost all witnesses are drunk and can’t give reliable testimonies. In many cases, there is likely no way to prove that someone was sexually assaulted beyond a reasonable doubt. This should not doom survivors to having to look their abusers in the face every day.

I am saying this as someone who has been raped and sexually assaulted by two different men. The first instance was my first relationship. He was mentally, emotionally and sexually abusive. This was during my sophomore year in high school. I broke up with him that year and in junior year he ended up in four out of my eight classes.

Panic attacks became a regular occurrence for me. There were some that were so bad that I had to call my mom and have her take me home. I dealt with that during my whole junior year because I was not aware of any resources that were available.

He used our classes as a way to get closer to me. He was constantly trying to talk to me, commenting on the way I looked and trying to rope me back into the abusive relationship. He even claimed that he thought he had breast cancer in an attempt to try and get me to feel sympathy for him. 

Needless to say, he did not have breast cancer.That was in high school, where missing class is not as important as it is in college. Taking this resource away from people is harmful to their education. No one is able to function their best in an environment where their trauma is forcibly revisiting them every day, and no one deserves to have to choose between their education and avoiding their abuser for their mental health.

DeVos’s decision shows a profound lack of understanding or empathy for other human beings. DeVos consulted with survivors of rape and sexual assault, as well as “Men’s Rights Activists,” and chose to listen to misogynists rather than survivors. Why weren’t the MRAs advocating for male survivors, who also rely on Title IX protections? Why were they more focused on hurting women, who they perceive to be the only group that benefits from these protections? Why was a woman more willing to side with misogynists than survivors of rape and sexual assault who were brave enough to share their experiences in order to protect others who are in their same unfortunate situation?

The only conclusion I can come to is misogyny. Rape and sexual assault are unfortunately painted as a woman’s issue when it affects everyone. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) estimates that every 98 seconds, someone is the U.S. is sexually assaulted. RAINN also states that one out of every six women have experienced rape or attempted rape and that at least one out of every 33 men have experienced rape or attempted rape. 21 percent of transgender, genderqueer and gender nonconforming students have experienced rape or attempted rape, compared to 18 percent of cisgender women and four percent of cisgender men. It is also important to note that statistics on male rape are difficult to create, since men are much less likely to report rape than women. This means statistics generally run lower than the actual numbers.

The fact is, rape and sexual assault are not just women’s issues. Treating them as such is detrimental to everyone involved. It leads to decisions like the repeal to Obama’s Title IX guidelines. Side with survivors, because whether you are aware of or not, you probably know a few.

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