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Here’s What to Know About the Trump Administration’s New Sexual Assault Guidelines

Hint: it’s a lot of semantics.

Meaghan Lanctot

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The Trump administration’s new sexual assault guidelines for college campuses would basically protect perpetrators and remove legal liability from the administration of each school. Led by embattled Education Secretary Betsy Devos, the new rules have various means of preventing victims from coming forward. From nulling any claim of assault if it is not reported to the “correct” administrator to removing schools’ responsibility for off-campus assaults, Devos is clearly trying to give more power to the accused and the schools they attend.

In addition, the Trump administration is changing the language of what constitutes evidence from “preponderance of evidence” of the Obama administration to “clear and convincing” evidence. With rape trials already being notoriously difficult to come by, more victims will be silenced with the implementation of this legal language.

Betsy Devos testifying in Congress last fall (Source: CNN

As stated before, student victims will need to report their assault to a certain type of administrator. Reports to RAs, peer advocates specializing in sexual assault, and ordinary school employees would not hold the school legally liable for the sexual assault. However, the specific kind of administrators has not been properly addressed in the new guidelines, thereby making it harder for victims to even get their assault properly reported.

Schools across the country will probably still look like they are staying stringent against sexual assault, although many of their legal responsibilities will be rescinded under these guidelines. As stated before, school administrations’ will not be penalized for assaults that occur in off-campus places, including student housing, fraternity houses, and bars/restaurants. With 87% of college students living off campus, this essentially any blame placed on the schools where these assaults take place. Schools would not be held accountable for providing a unsafe environment for their students, including those not living on campus.

With the high legal costs of court, the backlog of rape kits, and how two in three rapes go unreported, this change only inhibits victims more from pursuing legal action against their rapists.

 

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