Don't Cut Protections to Survivors of Sex Assault New York AG James Tells Secretary DeVos

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Education Secretary DeVos. Photo: GageSkidmore--Flickr.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has written to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos expressing concern over the Department’s efforts to roll back key protections for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses.

“We need to do everything in our power to prevent sexual assault on college campuses,” James, wrote. “These rollbacks limit the school’s responsibility of preventing sexual assault, and makes it harder for survivors to report instances of assault. Stripping these critical protections would be to the severe detriment of sexual assault survivors on college campuses across the nation. Secretary DeVos and the Trump administration must understand the gravity of what’s at stake, and keep these protections in place to help students feel safe while receiving an education.”

In the letter, James reasserts the commitment of the Office of the Attorney General to ensuring that Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education find solutions to combat the rampant sexual assault on college campuses.

If enacted, the proposed rule would limit a school’s responsibility to prevent and investigate sexual assault and sexual harassment, and discourages the reporting of sexual discrimination, harassment, and violence by making the process for investigating and resolving allegations difficult for all parties involved.

Incidents of sexual assault on college campuses are pervasive. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, nearly two thirds of college students experience sexual harassment, while roughly 25 percent of college women and 15 percent of college men are victims of forced sex during their time in college.

Yet, more than 90 percent of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.

The Department of Education’s current Title IX guidance was first issued in 2011 and later clarified in 2014. The guidance instructs educational institutions on how they must address sexual assault incidents under Title IX.

These steps include appointing a Title IX coordinator, requiring mandatory reporting by responsible school officials, and implementing procedures for handling investigations and hearings.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Title IX tracker, as of January 30, 2019, there have been 502 investigations of colleges for their handling of reports of sexual violence--192 of those have been resolved and 310 remain open.

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