Women’s rights advocates in Central New York are trying to rally opposition to proposed changes to the laws that govern sexual assault and harassment in schools. They say a victim’s ability to report an assault, and have it investigated, would be stifled if the amendments become law.
These are basically civil rights laws that guarantee safe and fair access to education regardless of gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Central New York Chapter of the national Organization for Women cites at least seven changes they say would weaken the ability of a victim to report sexual abuse … and limit the chances it gets investigated. Chapter President Mikey Belosi says the changes would take away protections that go beyond physical abuse, such as unwanted touching or rape.
“If there’s name calling, if the person is humiliated, if the person gets threats online, that would not be a Title IX kind of situation.”
Even worse, she worries that only the most severe, ongoing abuse would be investigated. And the channels for a victim to report abuse would be limited. The changes come from the federal department of education and cover K-12 schools as well as colleges.
IN a press release NOW leaders spell out the proposals they say cutback on protections for victims of harassment and abuse.
"These changes redefine sexual harassment and abuse with higher criteria, establish roadblocks to reporting activity, and makes changes to investigation into the crime.
The amendments include (but are not limited to):"
· Requiring schools to investigate only the most extreme cases of abuse
· Ignoring sexual violence that happens outside the school program
· Increasing barriers to reporting sexual harassment
· Allowing discrimination against sexual assault survivors
· Use of a mediation process instead of investigation
· Making religious exemptions to Title IX more private from students
· Allowing delays in investigations
(source: CNY Chapter National Organization for Women)
Belosi fears they send a message.
"I think the message clearly is, ‘Title IX is not going to protect you and, don’t file a claim.’”
She’s seen progress in the ability to verbalize abuse…which could be reversed.
“I think it’s really going to have a stifling effect on reporting of harassment and violence. There’s also going to be less public information about the safety of campuses.”
Supporters say these reforms give defendants more due process… and would cut down on a wave of claims over single incidents. They would also eliminate single investigators for an incident on campus, in favor of a panel hearing. Belosi is urging people to voice their opinions about the amendments. She says pointed criticisms have to be addressed.
“When you write your comment you want to be sure to critique what the proposed rule is, offer information about why this rule should not be changed, or how it might be changed to improve the situation. So let the department of education know how you feel about these changes and why they should not be made.”
The public comment period on the reform proposals goes until January 28th.