Congressional Lawmakers Want to Codify Title IX Protections for Campus Sexual Assault Survivors

Lawmakers and advocates came together on Capital Hill today to unveil HR 4030, The Title IX Protection Act. The new legislation, authored by Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14), would codify Title IX protections for campus sexual assault survivors put in place by Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton—counteracting the Trump administration’s recent attacks on measures and practices that ensure justice for victims and accountability from campus administrators.

We're live denouncing DeVos' decision to rollback Title IX guidance protecting survivors of sexual violence. Tune in!

Posted by Democratic Women's Working Group on Thursday, October 12, 2017

Rep. Speier was joined at a press conference by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Representatives Lois Frankel (FL-21), Bobby Scott (VA-3), Mark Takano (CA-41) and Ann McLane Kuster (NH-2) at the podium, among other members of Congress who attended in support. The Congressional delegation then ceded the stage to advocates like Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center; Kimberly Churches, CEO of the American Association of University Women; Sage Carson, the Know Your IX Manager at Advocates for Youth; Jess Davidson, Managing Director of End Rape on Campus and organizers from the Feminist Majority.

“What can I say, other than ‘here we go again?’ The attacks on women from the Trump administration just do not stop,” Rep. Frankel said to kick off the press conference. “We are here today because Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has taken action that takes us back to the days when sexual violence was swept under the rugs at our schools and college campuses.”

The Title IX Protection Act codifies into law guidance offered as far back on 2001 for schools and students that clarifies what schools are required to do under Title IX to prevent and respond to sexual harassment and violence. It comes less than a month after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos scrapped landmark guidance from the Obama administration on the issue, causing confusion across the country for university administrators and putting survivors at risk. The Q&A DeVos offered in place of that guidance allows schools to use unfair evidentiary standards in sexual assault proceedings, utilize mediation in place of disciplinary action for sexual violence and tilt the scales in the appeals process to alleged rapists. The interim guidance also lifted requirements on how long schools had to investigate sexual violence, giving administrators on campuses the leeway to stretch out or even ignore cases of rape and sexual assault as they see fit. DeVos put the new Title IX policies in place after meeting with alleged rapists—using turns of phrase and hypothetical examples in her announcement that echoed those of Men’s Rights Activists and others on the so-called alt-right.

Rep. Speier’s bill requires the use of the “preponderance of evidence” standard in Title IX proceedings, demands prompt and comprehensive investigations of complaints, protects survivor confidentiality and clarifies that mediation and cross examination are not appropriate and offers alternatives. Where DeVos’ interim guidance tipped the scales of justice away from survivors, this legislation seeks to balance them back out.

“Today, we introduced The Title IX Protection Act for one reason: We aren’t going back,” Speier said at the press conference. “We aren’t going back to a time when women who were raped were too afraid to come forward because no one believed them, or because the system was rigged to sweep their cases under the rug. We aren’t going back to a time where a woman could be violated and her university would make pitiful excuses about being unable to take her side over her attacker’s side or, worse yet, blame the survivor for her assault because of so-called honor code violations. Going to a party, having a drink or letting a date into your room isn’t a crime. And the law is clear: students have the right to an education free from discrimination and sexual violence. We are calling today on Secretary DeVos and the Trump Administration to respect the law and these basic civil rights.”

Carmen Rios is the Digital Editor at Ms., Managing Editor of Argot Magazine and the co-host of THE BOSSY SHOW. Her work has also appeared at BuzzFeed; Bitch; Mic; MEL; Everyday Feminism and Autostraddle, where she was Community Director and Feminism Editor. She stays very zen in L.A. traffic. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

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