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Department of Education's Changes to Title IX

Last week- on May 6 amid a pandemic- the Department of Education released changes to Title IX. Title IX is a 1972 Civil Rights Act that bans sexual discrimination within the educational system. Sadly, the new provisions within the 2,033 page document include the following changes:

  • Narrows the definition of sexual harassment
  • Reduces options to survivors of sexual assault, dating violence and stalking
  • Reduces liability of colleges and universities
  • Reduces mandated reporting of sexual violence
  • Deregulates federal guidelines to protect sexual violence survivors
  • Changes the ‘standard of proof’ from ‘preponderance’ to ‘clear and convincing’
  • Bolsters protections for perpetrators
  • Allows for live hearings and cross examinations of the assault survivor
  • Only investigates if assault reported to ‘certain people’

23% of undergraduates and 11% of graduate students report having experienced sexual violence, AND we know survivors under-report assaults. We talk extensively about medical and legal considerations for sexual violence survivors in my "Empowering the Sexual Assault Survivor" course. Participants who took my course will need to know those protections we discussed just a few days ago are slated to be rolled back. Today, in my remote course "Trauma Informed Care", we lay the physiological and neurobiological framework for empowering the sexual assault survivor. Following that, in addition to how to continue empowering for survivors, we elaborated on the legal changes listed above.

Outrageously, these Title IX deregulating provisions are to go into effect August 14, 2020 while schools are struggling to keep students safe amid coronavirus pandemic.  Again, let us look at these percentages (23% of undergraduates, and 11% of graduate students) and think about who needs safety and protection.

Schools do have choice in whether they roll back their protections to survivors of sexual violence. If you're looking for ways to help, you may want to reach out to your alma mater and ask what changes they are planning to make in the context of this new deregulation and disempowerment of Title IX protections. Maybe contact your local sexual assault coalition and see how you can become involved.  You could also contact your legislature and/or leave comment on www.regulations.gov (search title IX and education).Empower yourself so that you can empower others! As a physical therapist specialized in pelvic rehabilitation, empowering survivors of sexual violence happens every day in my practice. I hope you feel empowered, supported and successful in doing this challenging work too!

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