WASHINGTON, DC, SEPT. 8, 2017: Yesterday Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, announced her decision to scale down or remove Title IX protections on college campuses. Title IX holds universities across the country accountable for supporting survivors of sexual assault.
Hiding behind a false assertion that the current Title IX guidances have failed not only survivors but the accused perpetrators as well, DeVos really acts on behalf of the assailants, embracing and protecting an environment that stigmatizes victims of sexual assault and places the comfort of the assailant before the well-being of the survivor.
Who are the victims? One in four women are sexually assaulted in college, and 47% of transgender adults have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. People living with disabilities are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted, and yet reports of assault by students with disabilities are often ignored. In spite of this ugly reality, 99% of perpetrators walk free. 90% of rape cases go unreported, and when the survivor does speak up, they are met with stigma, blame, shaming, disbelief.
The system currently benefits the accused. We have seen case after case where an assailant is found guilty, yet receives a shortened sentence with the explanation that anything more stringent would interfere too much with their daily life, or even, in one case, continue to impact their appetite! This is usually white and always male privilege.
When we talk about our human right to sexual freedom, we are talking about the freedom to say “No.” and have it mean “No.” Ending sexual violence requires that we address it when it occurs and that we protect the victims, not the perpetrators.
The Woodhull Freedom Foundation calls on Betsy DeVos to continue to protect survivors, not their assailants, by enforcing the current guidelines and holding institutions accountable. We stand opposed to sexual violence. We stand firmly with our allies who are working tirelessly to ensure the safety and rights of those impacted by sexual assault. We stand with and support survivors.