Sexual Assault Survivors and Advocates Condemn Betsy DeVos’s Refusal to Commit to Enforcing Civil Rights Protections for Student Victims
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 17, 2017
Contact: Dana Bolger, dana@knowyourIX.org
Washington, D.C. — Know Your IX, a national, survivor-led organization empowering students to end gender-based violence in schools, issued the following statement following the hearing of Betsy DeVos, President-Elect Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee:
One in five college women are sexually assaulted during their time on campus. This pervasive violence not only puts young people’s safety at risk but also undermines their access to education: victims often see their grades drop, take long leaves of absence from school to avoid their attacker, or are forced to drop out entirely. Yet Secretary-Designate Betsy DeVos said in her HELP Committee hearing that it would be “premature” to commit to maintaining the Education Department’s pivotal 2011 guidance clarifying schools’ longstanding obligations under Title IX to support student survivors in accessing education in the wake of violence.
As young people whose own educations have been disrupted by gender-based violence in school, we know firsthand that the Department’s enforcement of Title IX has helped countless survivors complete their educations. Before the Department turned its attention to enforcing survivors’ Title IX rights, schools routinely ignored their rights and swept sexual assault under the rug. If Ms. DeVos revokes the Department’s critical work, she would make it harder for students to learn their rights—and easier for schools to violate them. If the next Secretary of Education moves backward on Title IX, she will make schools far less safe for women, LGBTQ, and other marginalized students. We hope Ms. DeVos will change course and come to understand just how critical the Department’s Title IX enforcement is for students across the country. However, if she continues to fail to commit to enforcing Title IX, we believe her unwillingness to protect the civil rights of sexual assault survivors should be disqualifying.
Know Your IX is a national, survivor-led organization empowering students to end gender violence in schools. Know Your IX’s staff and volunteers were present at today’s hearing and recognized by Ranking Member Murray for their work to create safe and equitable schools.
Know Your IX & End Rape on Campus: Protecting Students from Violence and Harassment
Feminist Law Professors: Title IX and Preponderance of the Evidence
Rape Victims Groups and Allies Urge Veto of California Bill Creating Mandatory Minimums for Sexual Assault
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 12, 2016
Contact: Mahroh Jahangiri, mahroh@knowyourIX.org
WASHINGTON D.C. — Leading organizations fighting sexual assault on campus, and allies, sent a letter Friday to California Governor Jerry Brown, urging him to veto California Assembly Bill 2888, which would institute a mandatory minimum-term sentence for certain cases of sexual assault.
The letter, signed by over two dozen survivor advocacy groups and allies, expresses strong opposition to mandatory minimums, calling the bill a “mistaken” answer to justified anger over the Brock Turner case.
The bill passed the legislature in September, in response to the six-month sentence given to Turner, a former Stanford student who was convicted of sexual assault in March. In the letter, the advocacy groups argue that mandatory minimums ultimately harm victims and deter reporting, while exacerbating racial and class disparities in the criminal legal system.
Mahroh Jahangiri, Executive Director of Know Your IX, said: “When people think of AB 2888, they picture Brock Turner. But mandatory minimum charges are less likely to be brought against perpetrators who look like Turner—and will instead disproportionately impact Black, Latino, and low-income defendants. Furthermore, they hurt the victims California legislators are claiming to protect, deterring survivors—many of whom are assaulted by someone they know—from coming forward. As student survivors ourselves, we know mandatory minimums are a fatally flawed answer to sexual assault.”
The letter was written by Know Your IX, a national, survivor-run organization working to end sexual violence on college campuses. Signatures include California student groups and national advocacy organizations, such as the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence and Ultraviolet.
The list of signatories is as follows:
Know Your IX
ACT for Women and Girls
American Association of University Women, Weber State University
American Constitution Society, Yale Law School
Associated Students Women’s Commission, University of California, San Diego
Campus Assault Response, James Madison University
Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women
Columbia Law Women’s Organization (CLWA), Columbia Law School
Functional Immediate Response Student Safety Team (FIRSST), Goshen College
Greeks United Around Respect and Discussion of Sexual Assault, Valparaiso University
The Harassment/Assault Legal Team (HALT), Harvard Law School
MenCanEnd, The University of Texas at Austin
National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
National Council of Jewish Women, California
National Lawyers Guild, Yale Law School
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
Our Harvard Can Do Better, Harvard University
Positive Women’s Network – USA, California
Prevention Intervention Network, Goshen College
Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee, University of Tennessee
Social Justice Club, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Speak Up, Stay Strong, York College of The City University of New York
Student Government, Lake Forest College
Title IX at Northwestern, Northwestern University
UChicago Clothesline Project, University of Chicago
URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity
Know Your IX and Carry That Weight Join Forces
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(July 1, 2015) – Know Your IX is joining forces with Carry That Weight, the student anti-violence campaign that grew out of Emma Sulkowicz’s mattress performance at Columbia University. Together, we’ll be the largest network of student activists in the country working to address gender-based violence on campus — and we’re all stronger together!
Carry That Weight organizers will join the Know Your IX Campus Action Network (IX-CAN) in a space FOR students BY student to talk organizing strategies, policy ideas, critical legislation, and ending gender-based violence in school. Student survivors and activists from all across the nation are coming together to collaborate, share resources, and build a more unified national movement to end sexual and domestic violence on campus and beyond!
We’re using our collective reach and visibility to support each other and lift up the work of the students on the ground — especially that of students whose voices are too often overlooked and silenced. IX-CAN will now provide on-going support, training, nationally coordinated days of action, and space to work strategically in solidarity with activists all over the country.
Any student activist or student group can join IX-CAN. If you’re organizing for change on your campus, here are a few things to look out for:
- A Campus Action Toolkit — with best practices for analyzing your school’s policies, procedures, and resources for preventing sexual violence; example policy demands from other students organizers in your area; asks that have worked at schools like yours; strategies for how to pressure your administration; and tools for how to secure and leverage media attention
- Activist Trainings — online and regional trainings connecting you with experienced organizers and other student activists, with whom to collaborate as you develop a ground campaign, design a media strategy, fundraise to support your movement, and build student power on your campus
- Online community — spaces to share resources, connect to other student activists, and build a national movement together
- Legislative advocacy — opportunities to help work on new legislation and make sure that we, as students, are always at the table when lawmakers are drafting legislation in our cities, regions, and states
ADVISORY: At Least 23 Institutions of Higher Education Fail to Comply with Campus SaVE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(October 13, 2014) – As part of a broader campaign to increase awareness of campus domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, students working with Know Your IX have uncovered evidence that indicates at least 23 schools have violated requirements of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (Campus SaVE) provisions of the Clery Act, passed as part of the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Under Campus SaVE, institutions of higher education are now required to include the number of reports of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking in their annual Clery Act reports. Schools were required to publish these reports by October 1st, 2014.
As of October 13th, the following 23 schools have not published data online regarding the number of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking reports received in 2013. Many more have disclosed few or zero incidents of sexual assault, suggesting not that sexual assault does not occur on a given campus, but rather that the university is dissuading survivors from reporting experiences of assault, or is willfully under-reporting them.
- Austin College
- Carlow University
- Chatham University
- Cornell College
- Emory and Henry College
- Georgetown College
- Hiram College
- Howard University
- Kalamazoo College
- Kenyon College
- Lawrence University
- Lycoming College
- Lyon College
- Marlboro College
- Point Park University
- Rhodes College
- Southwestern University
- St. John’s College
- University of the District of Columbia
- University of Illinois at Springfield
- University of New Hampshire
- Wabash College
- Wheaton College
Further, the schools listed above represent only a small percentage of all institutions of higher education – the vast majority of which students have not yet examined – suggesting that non-compliance is likely widespread.
Know Your IX urges the Department of Education to enforce Campus SaVE in the face of widespread non-compliance. Students and their families have a right to know which schools create a safe reporting environment for survivors of dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking.
Know Your IX Response to Bipartisan Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency (HALT) on Campus Sexual Violence Act
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(July 31, 2014) – Today, Representatives Jackie Speier, Patrick Meehan, Judy Chu, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Barbara Lee, and Sheila Jackson Lee introduced the bipartisan Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency (HALT) on Campus Sexual Violence Act. We believe the HALT Act proposes a powerful path to ending assault and harassment in our schools.
We are particularly pleased that the bill would create real sanctions for schools violating students’ civil rights by providing the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) the authority to levy fines against noncompliant institutions. Because the OCR’s only current sanctioning power—denying a school all federal funding—would devastate students, Know Your IX has advocated for intermediate fining authority since our launch last summer. To make the promise of Title IX a reality for students, the Department of Education needs a smart, productive way to hold schools accountable—and fines are just that solution.
Know Your IX is also heartened to see that the HALT Act would require transparency and openness from the Department of Education with respect to its investigation and resolution practices. While the Department of Education under Assistant Secretary Catherine Lhmaon’s leadership has committed to releasing this vital information to the public, including to prospective students and their families, codifying this openness will ensure continued transparency in future administrations.
Know Your IX appreciates the Representatives’ strong commitment to grounding this legislation in students’ experiences and input so that its policies will best address the challenges survivors face on the ground. We look forward to continuing this collaboration throughout the legislative process.
Know Your IX Response to Bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act (CASA)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(July 30, 2014) – This morning Senators including Kirsten Gillibrand, Claire McCaskill, Richard Blumenthal, and Mark Warner, alongside Republican co-sponsors Senators Chuck Grassley, Kelly Ayotte, Dean Heller, and Marco Rubio, released promising bipartisan legislation to combat campus sexual violence. We believe this bill is an important step, and we are grateful for our elected officials’ leadership in confronting one of the most significant civil rights challenges of our day.
While the process of turning these bills into law will of course be a lengthy one, we are heartened to see bipartisan support for impactful reforms, including mandated Department of Education transparency and real sanctions for schools violating students’ civil rights. We believe that these two reforms in particular, for which we have advocated since our launch, must be central to any effort to improve campus responses to sexual violence.
Many of these proposals grew from student experience and input, and we are pleased to be represented by Members of Congress who listen to and value survivors’ expertise on the ground. We look forward to continued conversation and collaboration to create law that builds safe, just campuses for students of all genders.
Know Your IX Response to White House Task Force Report
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(April 28, 2014) – Tonight the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault released its first report on ending campus sexual violence. We are grateful for the Task Force’s tireless work and commitment to improving federal enforcement of Title IX, the 40-year-old landmark civil rights legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Less than a year ago we launched our ED ACT NOW campaign with a protest outside the Department of Education (ED). We hoped to spark a conversation about better federal enforcement of Title IX and bring our policy recommendations, based on the experiences of student survivors across the country, to the Administration. Today we are encouraged to see many of our demands at the heart of the Task Force’s report.
We are particularly encouraged by the Task Force’s commitment to transparency, which we have demanded repeatedly since our first action. We hope that improved access to information about previous and ongoing Title IX investigations will provide students and their families with much-needed insight into universities’ track records on sexual violence and will allow the public to hold both schools and ED accountable. We note, however, that to promote true transparency, ED must make the list of schools under investigation available publicly rather than solely upon request, as the Task Force now requires. We are also glad to see our recommendation that the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Department of Justice, and Federal Student Aid Office coordinate their efforts to ensure effective investigations.
Still, these changes will mean little until Title IX enforcement is finally given teeth. It is unconscionable that, in ED’s entire history, the agency has never once sanctioned a school for sexual violence-related violations of Title IX. Such tolerance allows institutional abuses to go unchecked at students’ expense. We hope that legislators will step in to fill this gap in the Task Force’s recommendations by providing the OCR with new tools to hold schools accountable and protect students’ civil rights. For example, we ask Congress to empower the OCR to levy intermediate fines for Title IX violations. Currently the OCR has only two options at its disposal: revoke all federal funding — which would be devastating for students, particularly those dependent upon federal financial aid — or do nothing at all. Intermediate sanctions would allow the OCR to hold schools accountable without hurting students in the process.
We have seen the movement against campus sexual violence make great strides in this last year, and are so grateful to the many tireless students, advocates, organizations, and government officials who have joined us in this fight. There is still much to be done but today we are one significant step closer to realizing the promise of Title IX: equality in education for people of all genders.