04.02.19

Murray Slams DeVos’ Proposed Title IX Rule, Urges Committee to Listen to Survivors’ Stories and Experiences As Committee Works to Address Campus Sexual Assault

At HELP Committee Hearing, Senator Murray highlights need for Congress to address epidemic of campus sexual assault by finding legislative solution to protect students from sexual assault and harassment

 

Murray condemns Secretary DeVos’ proposed changes to Title IX, which would once again sweep sexual assault under the rug by allowing schools to shirk their responsibility to keep students safe 

  

Murray to student survivors: “I stand with you and I’m going to keep fighting to stop what happened to you from happening to other students.”

  

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered opening remarks at the Committee’s hearing on addressing campus sexual assault and ensuring student safety and rights. In her remarks, Senator Murray blasted Secretary DeVos’ proposed changes to Title IX, which students, parents, teachers, and experts agree are callous, ignore the experiences of survivors and the advice of experts, and are likely to discourage students from coming forward. Senator Murray shared several stories of sexual assault survivors to illustrate the importance of Title IX protections, why Secretary DeVos’ proposal would further harm survivors, and what progress needs to made to ensure every student is able to learn in an environment free from harassment or assault. 

 

The hearing comes as Senator Murray works on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA), an effort in which she is prioritizing education affordability, accountability, accessibility, and campus safety and students’ rights.

 

Key excerpts of Senator Murray’s opening statement:

 

“I am so in awe of the women and men who have shared one of the worst moments of their lives in order to let other survivors know it’s okay to come forward and to try to stop it from happening to others. But in listening to these stories, it’s clear there is much more that both Congress and colleges and universities need to do to prevent sexual assault—and to ensure students feel safe after it does happen.”

 

“Jennifer grew into a deep depression by not being believed by school administrators—and says Title IX should be ‘strengthened, not de-fanged.’ And yet—de-fanging campus sexual assault protection is exactly what Secretary DeVos is proposing to do. Her proposed rule would weaken protections for students and allow schools to shirk their responsibility to keep students safe.”

 

“By limiting the definition of harassment and only requiring schools to act if an attack is reported to specific school officials, Secretary DeVos’ proposal would discourage students from coming forward because they feel they won’t be believed or have their claims taken seriously.”

 

“Students who have been assaulted have every right to use the judicial system to seek justice, but schools also have a responsibility to students. Every student should be treated equally and fairly, the process should be unbiased and transparent, and students should know what the process is before they enter it, and it should be consistent for all cases. And we must have a process that ensures students have access to an education without being forced to be re-traumatized. We cannot have the trappings of the judicial system without the protections of it.”

 

“So I’m pleased we’re having this hearing, and I hope as we continue this conversation—we can continue to lift up the voices of survivors, listen to their stories, and use them to influence our decisions. We cannot address this issue without listening to them and I am so thankful for all the survivors in the room here today. I stand with you and I’m going to keep fighting to stop what happened to you from happening to other students.”

 

Full text below of Sen. Murray’s opening statement:

 

“Thank you Chairman Alexander.

 

“I am pleased this Committee is working towards a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that addresses all of the issues students are facing in higher education.

 

“And in order for a reauthorization to be truly comprehensive—it must address four student-centered priorities.

 

“Making college more affordable and addressing the exploding student debt crisis…

 

“Holding colleges accountable for students’ success…

 

“Increasing access and opportunities for historically unrepresented students…

 

“And ensuring our students are able to learn in an environment free from discrimination, harassment, and assault.

 

“We’ve had a number of productive discussions in this Committee about the first three priorities…

 

“And I’m pleased we are turning to the critical issue of campus safety today.

 

“Our conversation today is focused on addressing the scourge of campus sexual assault—and that’s so important.

 

“But as we work together on reauthorizing HEA—I hope we can also address the levels of bullying, hazing, and harassment happening on our campuses.

 

“We owe it to students like Tyler Clementi—who tragically took his own life after he was bullied by his fellow classmates...

 

“And the students who have died on college campuses around the country as a result of dangerous hazing practices.

 

“Jeopardizing their safety is not a price students should have to pay just to get an education.

 

“So—with that in mind—I want to turn to the topic of our hearing today—addressing campus sexual assault and ensuring students’ safety.

 

“The intention of Title IX was to ensure that no student can be discriminated against in school on the basis of sex…

 

“And that means schools must respond appropriately to sexual harassment, rape, or sexual assault.

 

“But for too long, this was the unspoken norm on our college campuses…

 

“Survivors didn’t report their attacks—ashamed or afraid they would be blamed…

 

“And when they did come forward—schools would ignore or hide these stories—and refused to take the necessary steps to prevent sexual violence going forward.

 

“But over the past few years—brave women and men have come forward and used their personal experiences with sexual assault to shine a light on what’s been happening on college campuses around the country for decades.

 

“And for the first time—this epidemic is finally being taken seriously by schools and universities, by the public, and by Congress.

 

“I am so in awe of the women and men who have shared one of the worst moments of their lives in order to let other survivors know it’s okay to come forward and to try to stop it from happening to others.

 

“But in listening to these stories, it’s clear there is much more that both Congress and colleges and universities need to do to prevent sexual assault—and to ensure students feel safe after it does happen.

 

“Students like Sarah from my home state of Washington.

 

“Sarah’s school found she had been raped and yet still forced her to go to school with her assaulter.

 

“Sarah felt that Title IX failed her entirely.

 

“And Jennifer from Michigan—who after reported being sexually harassed by a classmate—she felt her case was written off as insignificant and unbelievable.

 

“Jennifer grew into a deep depression by not being believed by school administrators—and says Title IX should be strengthened, not de-fanged.

 

“And yet—de-fanging campus sexual assault protection is exactly what Secretary DeVos is proposing to do.

 

“Her proposed rule would weaken protections for students and allow schools to shirk their responsibility to keep students safe.

 

“By only requiring schools to investigate claims that happen on their campus—it would mean that Brittany’s school wouldn’t be responsible for her rape.

 

“Brittany was raped in her off-campus apartment a few years ago—and she said without protections under Title IX afforded to her, she would have never returned to finish her degree.

 

“By limiting the definition of harassment and only requiring schools to act if an attack is reported to specific school officials…

 

“Secretary DeVos’ proposal would discourage students from coming forward because they feel they won’t be believed or have their claims taken seriously.

 

“As Alice, a survivor of sexual assault, said—there needs to be a wider definition of sexual assault so survivors can receive the recognition, care, and action that they need.

 

“And by requiring survivors to be directly cross examined in live hearings by the accused or their representative…

 

“This proposal would mean survivors would have to relive their trauma while being questioned by people who may be wholly unqualified to question survivors.

 

“Thousands of students, parents, teachers, and experts across the country have pointed out that parts of the proposed rule are callous, ignore the experiences of survivors and the advice of experts, and are likely to discourage students from coming forward.

 

“So, Chairman Alexander, as we work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act—we must reverse the harmful steps Secretary DeVos has taken and make meaningful progress to address campus sexual assault.

 

“And as we do that, it is imperative that we do not turn colleges into fake court rooms.

 

“Students who have been assaulted have every right to use the judicial system to seek justice, but schools also have a responsibility to students.

 

“Every student should be treated equally and fairly…

 

“The process should be unbiased and transparent…

 

“And students should know what the process is before they enter it, and it should be consistent for all cases.

 

“And we must have a process that ensures students have access to an education without being forced to be re-traumatized.

 

“We cannot have the trappings of the judicial system without the protections of it.

 

“So I’m pleased we’re having this hearing, and I hope as we continue this conversation—we can continue to lift up the voices of survivors, listen to their stories, and use them to influence our decisions.

 

“We cannot address this issue without listening to them and I am so thankful for all the survivors in the room here today.

 

“I stand with you and I’m going to keep fighting to stop what happened to you from happening to other students.

 

“We need a legislative solution to ensure students are able to get an education without being sexually harassed or assaulted…

 

“And Chairman Alexander—I look forward to working with you on that.

 

“Thank you.”

 

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