In recent months, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have brought the issue of workplace sexual assault and harassment into the spotlight. But sexual assault and consent are still largely misunderstood on college campuses. And now, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is being sued for her campus sexual assault policy amid continued backlash for the way her department has handled these issues.
On Thursday, January 25th, a lawsuit was brought against the Department of Education, including DeVos, in a federal court in California. The plaintiffs in the suit are three advocacy groups that have clients who say they were sexually assaulted. They will be represented by attorneys from Equal Rights Advocates, the National Center for Youth Law, National Women’s Law Center, and the Democracy Forward Foundation.
In the lawsuit filed against DeVos, Alice Abrokwa, a lawyer for the National Center for Youth Law, criticized DeVos’s policy for putting the burden of proof on the victims making allegations of assault.
The lawsuit also charges that the policy created under DeVos perpetuates the stereotype that women lie about being sexually assaulted.
In September, DeVos put new Title IX regulations in place requiring evidence to be provided by students in cases of campus sexual assault. More specifically, the act required proof to be more definitive than it was under the guidelines put in place by the Obama administration. In a September interview with Fox News, DeVos asserted that the new policy was created to ensure that all students “have a fair and equal forum” to address issues of sexual assault.
Since many women don’t feel comfortable reporting sexual assault, it’s important to make sure to listen to victims and treat them with respect if they do decide to file a complaint. By enacting stricter requirements for evidence, DeVos’s changes to Title IX policy make it more difficult for victims of assault to come forward. We are grateful that this lawsuit has been filed to change that, and we stand by all college students who have faced sexual assault.