In July 2020, YWCA Mohawk Valley stood firmly against the unfair, unethical, and unacceptable changes to Title IX legislation as proposed by the Department of Education at the time. This week, we are grateful for the announcement that the new administration under President Biden will reverse these changes.
When it was passed in 1972, Title IX provided protections against gender-based discrimination in federally funded colleges and universities, as well as K-12 schools. It had later been expanded to include sexual violence. The changes made by the prior administration created drawbacks to the historic advancements of Title IX, including:
- Changing the legal definition of “sexual harassment” to include three extreme qualifications, creating a “hasn’t suffered enough” standard on survivors.
- Placing the burden of proof on survivors and requiring schools to hold in-person cross-examination during review procedures.
- Revoking coverage of survivors who are part of the campus network but are assaulted off campus, when the survivor or accused are no longer “participating…in the education program,” and/or the report is not made to the “correct” person.
Together, these changes created barriers for survivors in getting the justice they deserved and gave institutions numerous opportunities to dismiss reports of assault and harassment.
During the planning process for revisions, we expect the new administration to center the voices and experiences of survivors. Three priorities we hope to see are:
- Expanding the definition of “sexual violence” to include all forms of dating violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and gender-based harassment, as it was under the Dear Colleague letter under the Obama administration.
- Expand coverage to include survivors who are assaulted or harassed off campus, especially when the accused assailants are members of the community, have a third-party relation to the school, etc.
- Minimize re-traumatization while ensuring justice for survivors throughout the review process by not only rescinding the harmful changes under Betsy DeVos, but also improving upon the process that existed prior.
As the local experts in sexual violence services and prevention, we call on the new administration to be leaders in advancing justice for survivors. We expect the process for the planned revisions to center survivor voices and experiences, and we will hold the administration accountable to their commitment to do better.
YWCA MV has always stood in support of survivors and will continue to advocate for justice on their behalf. To the survivors in our community: we see you, we hear you, and we believe you.