By Sophia Rossini
On Sept. 7, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos gave remarks about the overhaul of Title IX protections against campus sexual assault that were established during the Obama administration. She criticized the policy of preponderance of evidence used during sexual assault cases, calling it the “unraveling of justice,” “shameful,” and “wholly un-American.” However, we are not filling our prisons with accused rapists.
In fact, according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), only six out of every 1000 rapists will be incarcerated. Additionally, perpetrators of sexual assault are far less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals. In contrast, 20 out of every 1000 robbers will be incarcerated.
DeVos spent much of her speech calling attention to the ways that the life of a student can be ruined with false rape accusations. She frames the perpetrators as equally victimized as the survivors of sexual assault. This message coming from Washington is especially troubling as survivors of sexual assault grapple with the effects of what happened to them physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The last thing victims should be worried about is protecting their rapists. Already, an estimated 63 percent of sexual assault cases go unreported, meaning over half of perpetrators will not face a single legal consequence for their actions. This can hardly be read as a national crisis of accused
perpetrators having their lives ruined. This message shames victims into not
reporting the assault and sends a clear signal that the current administration cares more about the perpetrators than about the survivors.
The Brock Turner case was not an anomaly, but rather the chilling litmus test for the biases of the American justice system, and not in the way DeVos frames it. Perhaps the most disturbing effect of her statement is that it sets a precedent for other administrators to follow, and makes it acceptable to bash the legitimacy of sexual assault victims’ stories.
Candice Jackson, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Education’s civil rights office, stated that 90 percent of campus sexual assaults were just drunken, regretted sex. This doesn’t make sense with the motives of the survivors in reporting the assault.
The process of reporting sexual assault is cumbersome and uncomfortable at best, traumatizing and dehumanizing at worst. Reliving the experience in a courtroom is an easy task to endure. It is a gut-wrenching, emotionally taxing and humiliating experience. Reporting sexual assault is not a impulsive decision undertaken simply because one wants attention. The use of the preponderance of evidence on campus is not the cause of the unraveling of the American justice system, but an attempt to remedy it.
Rape culture is alive and well in American culture, and DeVos’ efforts to equate the suffering of the accused to the plight of the victims signals a gross disregard for victims’ trauma. Until campuses and the federal government can recognize the danger of protecting perpetrators, victims will suffer in silence, and perpetrators are more likely to become repeat offenders.
This is the opinion of Sophia Rossini, CSB sophomore