While many have been cheering the fact that more and more women are coming out of the shadows to talk about the ways in which they were sexually harassed and abused, the current administration is still trying to silence those same women who have had to suffer through the shame and humiliation of having been attacked by members of the opposite gender.
Many of the advancements made under President Barack Obama’s administration are being pulled back under the current administration and many students fear Title IX protections will soon follow. With the appointment of Betsy DeVos to Education Secretary, advocates for those who have been targets of sexual harassment and assault are afraid that much of the steps forward that have been made regarding Title IX in recent years is about to be undone.
New Title IX rules created by DeVos are expected to be announced any day now, and considering DeVos’s recent comments defending those who believe they have been wrongly accused of sexual assault, many people are worried the new rule will work to protect them, rather than those on whom they prey.
DeVos’s examples included numerous “victims” of sexual assault allegations and the ways in which their lives have been negatively affected by the claims they insist are false. The fact that DeVos said nothing about the ways in which those who have been subjected to sexual assault are negatively affected is deeply disconcerting for many supporters of Title IX and those who want stricter discipline and enhanced protections under the federal rule.
An indication that the pendulum may, in fact, be swinging the other way are two lawsuits that have recently been filed against two different universities in Tennessee: Belmont University, which was filed by someone who was named only as John Doe, and Vanderbilt University, which was filed by a plaintiff who gave their name as Z.J.
In the case against Belmont, Doe alleges he was illegally deprived of his right to an attorney during his hearing and that the school did not properly notify him of all the claims made against him. Instead, the complaint tried to turn the tables on his accuser, calling her the one who had been “unthruthful” in that case and insisting she should have been punished for allegedly lying about the assault.
Given the propensity for sexual assault accusers to be disbelieved and ridiculed for speaking out about the mistreatment they experienced, it’s no wonder many are concerned these lawsuits are the first in a series of steps backward in how schools handle claims of sexual assault.
Meanwhile, Belmont University has released a statement saying it stands by its investigation into the sexual assault allegations against John Doe, as it stands by all its investigations of sexual assault claims.
In the lawsuit against Vanderbilt University, Z.J. alleges the school violated its own campus discipline policies by expelling him, an assertion the university publicly denied, saying it works to thoroughly investigate all allegations of sexual assault and to resolve them in a manner that is both prompt and treats all parties as equals.
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