The Department of Education is Failing Survivors of Campus Sexual Assault

After months of empty platitudes about “urgency,” the Biden administration will delay making changes to the harmful Title IX regulations put in place under Betsy DeVos—until May of next year

department-education-survivors-campus-university-sexual-assault-title-ix
More than 50 percent of all sexual assaults will occur between the day students arrive on campus and Thanksgiving break. (Wolfram Burner / Flickr)

Right now students are leading protests against campus sexual assault across the country at the University of Kansas, Auburn University, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Nebraska and more. Students are calling for action from the leaders who are supposed to keep them safe. But earlier this month, the Department of Education made it clear that they will refuse to hear them.

In March, President Biden issued an executive order asking the Department of Education to re-examine the harmful Title IX regulations put in place under Betsy DeVos. But, after months of empty platitudes about “urgency” and how the department “takes these matters seriously,” they have failed to take any meaningful action and will delay any changes until May of 2022. 

Students cannot afford to wait. Right now, campuses are in the middle of what experts are calling a “double red zone.” More than 50 percent of all sexual assaults will occur between the day students arrive on campus and Thanksgiving break. Students new to campus are most vulnerable to assault and this year both freshmen and sophomores are on campus in person for the first time, putting twice as many students at risk.

Making Our Voices Heard

That’s why last week, #EdActNow, a coalition of groups advocating for student survivors, including End Rape On Campus, attempted to change that. We gathered to deliver over 50,000 signatures of students, parents, lawmakers and advocates demanding the administration take swift action to undo the Betsy DeVos-era Title IX regulations and immediately implement three provisions to secure the safety and protection of students.

Members of the coalition, campus leaders and survivors met with Acting Assistant Secretary of Education Suzanne Goldberg, Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten and several other representatives of the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.

As we sat down, we delivered a compelling message: Today, nearly 40 percent of survivors who report an assault to their school will be pushed out of education. Many more will never report and will suffer in silence. The department cannot let another school year go by without taking action.


Almost 40 percent of survivors who report a sexual assault to their school will be pushed out of education. Many more will never report and will suffer in silence.


We were met with those familiar platitudes about “urgency” and “seriousness” coupled with the deadening:

“Unfortunately, we are not able to provide you with any information on our internal processes. … Our plan is to continue to implement a proposed new rule by May 2022.”

Jaw-Drop. Silence. Then Uproar.

What I witnessed in that meeting were student survivors and advocates making themselves vulnerable and sharing their experiences in an attempt to educate the very people in power who should already understand. I saw the failure of a system and individuals who are choosing to stand in the way of progress. It was disappointing and disheartening.

No survivor, nor advocate, should have to pour their hearts out to explain to those in power the public health crisis that is underway and has been for decades. No survivor should have to beg and plead to those in positions of power. No survivor should have to wait to have their most basic rights met.

The Department of Education will continue to have blood on their hands because of their complacency—not only that of survivors who pass away due to suicide or homicide, but also those who may develop mental health disorders caused by the trauma that has been inflicted on them, not just by their perpetrator but also by the very institutions that are supposed to protect and support them.

Students are fed up. I’m fed up. We all are fed up. And when we are fed up, we’re done talking. We will continue to take action and keep our flames lit, because no one has the power to dim our lights.

If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.

Up Next:

About

Kenyora Parham, MSW, is the executive director of End Rape On Campus (EROC), which works to end campus sexual violence through direct support for survivors, prevention through education; and policy reform. You can find EROC on Instagram and Twitter.