The Trump administration has made a lot of moves that leave the public shaking their heads and wondering what his motivations were, and that's the case again this time. The White House took down a sexual assault report that had been posted on the website during Obama's term, all without saying a word about it. It only came to light when Alexandra Brodsky, the co-founder of the anti-sexual violence organization KnowYourIX, went looking for the report and realized that it had been removed.
The report wasn't exactly a controversial document. Put together in 2014, it's called "Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action," and it drew together information and statistics about sexual assault and suggestions for how the criminal justice system and universities could better fight against sexual violence. KnowYourIX thankfully still has it on its website, so as is almost always the case in the internet age, the information isn't lost, despite the White House's best efforts.
The White House Council on Women and Girls put the report together with the help of former vice president Joe Biden, and part of the reason for its disappearance could be that Trump seems to be disbanding the council. As they haven't announced anything specific, though, we can only speculate as to their reasons for removing the report.
Brodsky, who in addition to having founded KnowYourIX is also a civil rights attorney, posted about the report's absence on Twitter and then spoke to Huffington Post about her discovery. “I went looking for it because I’m working on briefing for a client who’s a survivor and was looking for some literature about the impact of sexual violence and that’s been a really helpful resource for that kind of research,” Brodsky said. “But it was no longer on the White House website. It’s not anywhere on the White House website.”
She drew a parallel between this instance and the discovery on Trump's first day in office, when the climate change pages on the White House website disappeared before Trump had even spent a night in the building. Trump is a notable climate change skeptic, and his decisions on the matter while in office have backed up the interpretation that the information was removed because the White House simply didn't want the public to have it.
Similarly, the administration has shown some resistance to fighting against sexual violence with the same vigor the Obama administration did. Education secretary Betsy DeVos has reportedly been considering rolling back Title IX protections, which could have a markedly adverse affect on sexual assault survivors who are looking for help. Brodsky told the Huffington Post that she believes that the report being removed wasn't simply a coincidence. “This is a summary of really important and, in some cases, government-funded work that was done to understand the causes and effects of sexual and gender violence," she said. "What does it mean that the Trump administration doesn’t want the public to have that information?” No one knows for sure, but we can certainly speculate.