In January, Betsy DeVos said it would be “too premature” to commit to the guidelines laid out in Title IX on campus sexual assault, worrying advocates that fought for the Department of Education's commitment to campus sexual assault. And with the education secretary's continued avoidance of the subject — and rumors that Title IX might be completely reversed — sexual assault survivors are calling for allies to take action.
Title IX is a federal civil rights law that strongly prohibits any federally-funded education program to allow discriminatory practices based on one's sex. If a college or university is given federal funds, it is obligated to maintain Title IX within its premises. Over the past few years, the law has been crucial in aiding sexual assault survivors in cases of harassment.
During a Senate hearing at the beginning of the year, DeVos dodged questions from Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania when he asked her to explain what she and her department intended to do about campus rape. Instead of delineating her plan for Title IX, DeVos said she couldn't commit to a definitive answer on the issue. Since then, the conversation on campus sexual assault hasn't stopped.
With DeVos in charge, activists are worried about the strength with which the guidelines regarding campus sexual violence will be enforced — or whether guidelines on campus sexual assault will be enforced at all. Jessica Davidson, the managing director of End Rape On Campus, an organization aimed at addressing and eradicating sexual violence on campus, has been a vocal advocate for strong enforcement of Title IX at colleges and universities.
The plan laid out by Title IX offers "exactly what we need administrators to do in order to guarantee that survivors can remain in school," Davidson tells Bustle. DeVos' refusal to commit to enforcing Title IX, "only ensures that there will be significant confusion for public administrators."
To keep the public aware, Davidson's organization has an educational guide on Title IX that anyone can read. But to keep them engaged with the subject of Title IX, EROC and the team at Know Your IX initiated the hashtag #DearBetsy campaign which urges DeVos to commit to the guidelines mentioned in Title IX mentioned in Title IX.
"Every single day you can make a difference just by speaking up."
EROC focuses on practical and actionable advice. If you are interested in holding DeVos accountable and ensuring that sexual violence on campuses is not ignored, Davidson says there is a lot people can do. First, she says to follow End Rape On Campus and Know Your IX on Twitter, but she also recommends you call the Department of Education and demand that DeVos commit to upholding the guidelines. Or volunteer at a local rape crisis center and join a club on your campus to get involved at a more local level.
"You don’t need to work at a nonprofit to be an advocate," Davidson says. "Every single day you can make a difference just by speaking up."
The activist wants the public to understand the sociological nature of sexual assault. Davidson offers a clear message on the issue and why the Department of Education must remain committed to the guidelines laid out in Title IX.
"Rape is not about sex," Davidson says, "it is about control, and it is essential that survivors of gender based violence feel that they are able to speak directly to those who represent them, like Secretary DeVos."