This morning, Education Secretary Besty DeVos announced a new Title IX rule process and criticized the "Dear Colleague" letter, which was issued by the Office for Civil Rights in 2011, requiring schools nationally to make significant improvements to the way they responded to sexual violence. On behalf of my colleagues at the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (RVAP), and in lockstep with our allies at UI, at our sister victim advocacy agencies throughout the state and nationally, I am deeply troubled by the statements. At RVAP, we are grateful for the opportunity to proudly stand with victims-survivors, and we will always defend Title IX, the "Dear Colleague" letter, and all the progress that has been made to ensure student safety and create effective policy.
We have come a long way since Title IX was passed in 1972, and we have too far yet to go to afford any steps backwards. RVAP’s mission is to create a community free from sexual violence, and the statements earlier today push us backwards. The new rule process creates more obstacles for survivors to be believed, and makes it more difficult for them to seek justice and support. The suggestion that college campuses are full of vindictive or misguided accusers trying to take advantage of the system is simply false. It is a societal delusion that has existed for far too long in this country and globally. In our work as advocates, we see that the opposite is actually true – those impacted by sexual violence face significant emotional, financial, and bureaucratic burdens to filing a Title IX complaint. Additionally, according to the Department of Justice, for every 1,000 sexual assaults only 310 are reported to police, and only six perpetrators will ever be incarcerated.
Fortunately, schools remain responsible for responding to and preventing sexual violence. Title IX informs these efforts at the University of Iowa. Additionally, the Clery Act, Violence Against Women Act, case law, best practices, expert consensus, and input from our students also inform all that happens here. We look forward to continuing our strong partnerships with the University of Iowa, Kirkwood Community College, Southeastern Community College, Iowa Wesleyan University, and the many K-12 schools in our service area.
We stand proudly with survivors, and are grateful for the many University of Iowa and community partners standing alongside us. Survivors need and deserve the full enforcement of Title IX! We’ve come too far to go back.
(Pronouns: he, him, his)
RVAP Executive Director