Trump administration to re-write rules on campus sexual assault - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Trump administration to re-write rules on campus sexual assault

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WSIL -- U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos plans to change guidelines on how colleges like SIU deal with sexual assault.

DeVos said the current Title IX sexual assault guidelines, which were implemented by the Obama administration, go too far and failed too many students.

DeVos said colleges often act too quickly to punish students in "kangaroo courts" before determining all the facts of a case.

"I'm grateful to those who endeavor to end sexual misconduct on campuses, but good intentions alone are not enough," said DeVos. "Every survivor of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously. Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know guilt is not pre-determined."

Emily St. Peter, with the Women's Center of Carbondale, spent a year helping SIU survivors of sexual assault.

She said many don't come forward, out of fear.

"We live in a culture, a rape culture, and victims are blamed, harassed and not believed," said St. Peter. "A lot of times students are forced to still be in the same classes or walk the same hallways as their rapists."

St. Peter worries the Trump administration's re-write of the rules will leave sexual assault survivors even more afraid.

"I fear survivors will not come forward. I fear that they will not get the services that they need, and I fear that assailants and perpetrators and rapists will feel emboldened to rape," said St. Peter. 

DeVos has not offered specific rule changes, but did say she would give the public a period of time to comment before new guidelines are adopted.

According to the latest statistics available from the SIU Department of Public Safety, 12 rapes occurred on the Carbondale campus in 2015, along with one case of forcible fondling. 

SIU spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith said the university had no comment on the Trump administration's plan to re-write sexual assault guidelines "because no specific proposal has been released to react to."

"It wouldn't be appropriate for us to speculate," said Goldsmith.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan blasted DeVos' plan to change the guidelines.

In July, Madigan and 19 other attorneys general sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urging her not to roll back protections for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses.
"The Secretary of Education is undermining efforts of schools around the country that have worked to improve their response to incidents of sexual violence on campus," Madigan said. "In our state, the Illinois Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act ensures that anyone who experiences sexual assault is heard and supported."

More information on Madigan's Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act can be found here.

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