The new Title IX rule that protects the assailant in sexual assault encounters went into effect Friday. The rule governs how schools and universities should respond to sexual assault allegations by not discriminating against the accuser or the accused.
Ironically, Betsy DeVos’s controversial new rule is meant to provide fair treatment to both parties within a sexual assault accusation. However, the new rule is anything but fair.
The Obama administration had previously instructed colleges and universities to take further measures to prevent and remedy sexual violence amongst students. Noncompliant colleges and universities would be subject to losing federal funding.
This new rule is just another in a long line of discriminatory changes DeVos and the Trump administration have made, including one that allowed transgender students to use gender-segregated facilities of their choice.
Moving forward, the survivor is forced to be cross-examined in trial, but the defendant can opt-out of cross-examination. As a result, the perpetrator’s statements cannot be used to testify. If the perpetrator were to confess to sexual assault, that can now be confidential and hidden, whereas before this rule went into effect, any confessions could be used as evidence. To make this easier to understand, I am going to use it in the form of a fictional story.
A freshman named Jackie gets raped by Allan and decides to go forward with charges (a hard decision on its own). Jackie must now sit in front of a court, answer questions about the traumatic experience and even worse, face her rapist.
Now, this could go a multitude of ways. If Jackie decides not to do the cross-examination, all of her evidence, including any rape kit, texts about the incident or the original report itself can be thrown out. In that case, Allan can say he didn’t do it, and will win. This deters so many women from reporting their sexual assault because they are scared of having to face their rapist.
If Jackie decides to go forward with the case and be cross-examined, and Allan agrees to cross-examination, Jackie now has to relive a horrific experience in front of a courtroom of people. Meanwhile, Allan is saying Jackie misunderstood or is lying. That is public humiliation and the purest form of mental abuse.
If Allan decides to not be cross-examined, any statements are withdrawn from the evidence. So, if he confessed to raping Jackie, told his friends about raping her and/or sent text messages about it, none of that can be used. If she had explicitly texted him, “Do not touch me,” and he said, “I don’t care how you feel about it,” that cannot be used.
I don’t think I have to explain any further how this new policy makes sexual assault survivors susceptible to more abuse and trauma. This rule was not only highly acclaimed by male activist groups, but it affects all institutions that accept federal funding, and because of the pandemic, that’s just about every institution there is. Elementary, secondary and higher education schools all fall under the new rules.
Imagine this taking place where a 16-year-old has to testify against her math teacher and is forced to be cross-examined despite having to still go to the school where it occurred. This is unacceptable on any level.
As a woman on a college campus, I am scared. I am scared of the corruption that ties my hands and shuts my mouth any time I have the courage to stand up for myself. But even more so, I am terrified for all the other survivors out there who were stripped of basic rights in the name of “equality” right when they needed support the most.
CHLOE FORBES[email protected]