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Reasons to Oppose Proposed Changes to Title IX, Part One: They Reinforce Myths about Rape

Orange border, small BARCC sprout. Words: Title IX [ti-tle + nine]

BARCC is submitting public comment to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos detailing the reasons why the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education (OCR-DOE) should not adopt a proposed Title IX rule related to responding, investigating, and adjudicating reports of sexual assault and misconduct in schools that receive federal funding. (Title IX is the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs and activities.)

As we stated in our comment, we believe the proposed rule “reinforces myths about sexual violence, favors offenders, and undermines procedural justice for survivors.” That is unfortunate given the epidemic of campus sexual assault and harassment and its effect on survivors, who may become “depressed and anxious, fall behind in their school work, and even drop out of school.” We can and must do better by survivors if we are to change campus climate around sexual assault.

The following excerpt from our comment on how the proposed rule reinforces myths about sexual harassment, abuse, and assault is the first in a series of five blog posts that break down our reasons for opposing the rule.

The prevalence of false reports of sexual violence is low, as research has shown.

Yet myths persist that most reports of sexual violence are untrue and/or that victims can be held partly or fully responsible based on what they were wearing, where they were, and/or whether they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they were attacked.

The proposed new rule reinforces these myths in two significant ways. First, the new “requirements for grievance procedures” mandates that schools must begin with the “presumption that the respondent is not responsible for the alleged conduct.” The only way to do this is by presuming that the person who filed the formal complaint is lying.

Second, schools may now “facilitate an informal resolution process, such as mediation, that does not involve a full investigation.” Mediation assists people who are engaged in a dispute and can be an effective tool when both parties bear responsibility. The only way to resolve a formal complaint of sexual harassment via mediation is by requiring the victim to bear responsibility for what happened—this is just one of many reasons that mediation is completely inappropriate, problematic, and harmful in cases of sexual assault and harassment.

If you think it’s wrong to blame the victim, then please join us in urging the U.S. Department of Education to reconsider its proposed new regulations for Title IX by submitting a public comment by Wednesday, January 30, at 11:59 p.m.

Wondering how to make your comment effective? Here are a few tips:

  • Use your own words for the most impact! Your comment is more likely to be taken into consideration if it’s not a duplicate message from a template.
  • Incorporate personal stories to support your arguments.
  • If you have a particular perspective or expertise, whether as a survivor, an advocate, a lawyer, etc., make note of it!
  • Include suggested solutions to your concerns. We don’t just want to say what’s wrong; we also want to help guide how the problems can be fixed.

Read part two of this series and check out this discussion with two BARCC experts about the proposed changes: 

Post updated January 24, 2019, to reflect new public comment deadline. 

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Boston Area Rape Crisis Center
The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center provides free, confidential support and services to survivors of sexual violence ages 12 and up and their families and friends. We work with survivors regardless of when the violence occurred, and our goal is to empower survivors to heal. We also work with a wide range of organizations and communities, including schools, colleges, and police, to advocate for change. We provide training in how to respond to survivors and create cultures that prevent sexual violence in the first place.

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