Betsy DeVos Is Ending Campus Sexual Assault Protections & Twitter Is Livid

by Clarissa-Jan Lim

After weeks of anticipation, the Department of Education announced Thursday that it would roll back Obama-era guidelines relating to campus sexual assault cases. Many had expected Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to rescind Title IX protections, and Twitter immediately lit up with fiery criticism.

In her announcement, DeVos excoriated the current system as a "failed" one that did a disservice to both the accuser and the accused. She said that "one rape was too many," yet made sure to stress the rights and treatment of students accused of sexual misconduct by their peers, and spoke of how many of them were denied "due process."

"This conversation has too often been framed as a contest between men and women or the rights of sexual misconduct survivors and the due process rights of accused students," DeVos said. "The reality is, however, a different picture. There are men and women, boys and girls, who are survivors, and there are men and women, boys and girls who are wrongfully accused. I've met them personally. I've heard their stories. And the rights of one person can never be paramount to the rights of another."

Much of the criticism on Twitter focused on what they saw as placing the burden of proof on survivors, many of whom experience deep trauma from their alleged assaults.

Some called out the first daughter Ivanka Trump — who has attempted to present a less extreme, more feminist front of the administration to the public — for her seeming inability to influence any policy from the White House.

Others pointed to a maddeningly familiar argument; a "both sides" approach that treats the powerful and the powerless equally.

DeVos' announcement doesn't come as a surprise; leading up to her decision on Title IX, she met with men's rights activists to hear their grievances about how students accused of sexual misconduct — and in some cases, like that of Brock Turner who was convicted of sexual assault — were treated unfairly by the system.

DeVos — and the men's rights activists she spoke to — claim that they believe rescinding Title IX protections will eliminate a system that not only fails to properly and respectfully handle sexual assault survivors as they process their trauma, but also prevents the students accused of sexual assault from being vilified by their campuses before they're found guilty.

According to sexual assault survivors and advocates, however, this common argument fails to take into account the low rate of false rape reports, as well as the overwhelming obstacles that survivors face in order to seek justice —obstacles that Title IX protections were meant to dismantle.

DeVos insists that doing away with this "failed system" will be better for everyone — accusers, the accused, and campus officials alike. But for students who survived sexual assault, it was a clear line in the sand, with the Department of Education on the other side of it.