You’ll never find rape advertised in a glossy college brochure. Yet the past two years have brought a deluge of evidence that sexual violence is a staple of U.S. higher education, with one in five women -- and a number of men -- suffering rape during their time in college.
After 175,000 people joined our petition asking the Department of Education to enforce Title IX -- the federal legislation that requires colleges to protect their students from violence -- President Barack Obama created the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.
It’s clear the president heard our plea: 4 out of the 5 goals the president directed to his task force came directly from our demands last summer.
But while the President’s task force is a step in the right direction, it isn't an end in itself.
That’s why we’re calling on the task force to make Title IX enforcement meaningful by directing the Department of Education to conduct timely and transparent investigations, issue substantive sanctions against offending schools, and provide substantial resources to colleges about issues, like intimate partner violence, rape, sexual assault, harassment, stalking and abuse, that impact a diversity of students, including queer survivors, survivors of color, and undocumented survivors.
Please stand with us and with all survivors who have been denied their civil right to justice and safety in education, by adding your signature below. Together we can show the President and his task force that we’re going to keep fighting until every single student can go to school in the United States without fear.
After all, sexual violence is an extracurricular no student should have to endure.
Your work, of course, has only begun.
Today, we call on you to strengthen federal enforcement of anti-violence law. Specifically, we demand you actively seek survivor input in your task force’s work and:
Take action to give Title IX enforcement teeth, without levying penalties so severe that they would hurt students. Possible options include issuing: 1) a directive ordering the Department of Education (ED) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to include victim-compensation schemes in voluntary resolution agreements (VRAs), 2) a directive urging the OCR to reduce reliance on VRAs within the limits drawn by law, and 3) legislative recommendations to empower the Education Department to levy intermediate sanctions. Survivor-complainants must also be included at the table when VRAs are negotiated to ensure that their needs are met.
Direct the Department of Education to conduct timely, transparent investigations. Due to the length of the Department's inquiries, which have lasted as long as seven years, and the Department's failure to update complainants, survivors desperately awaiting ED's help have already graduated -- or, too often, dropped out of school. The Department’s failure to act quickly and transparently has forced survivors to endure a terrifying absence of justice, support, and basic safety on their campuses -- places that should have been their homes.
Direct the Department of Education and the Department of Justice to release joint yearly guidance to schools on the issues most impacting students' campus experience. Actively incorporate student survivor input in selecting such topics and in developing the recommendations that will shape our lives on our campuses. We suggest the Department begin by issuing guidance on the following topics, which have most impacted our experiences: LBGTQ violence, same-sex violence, dating violence, stalking, racial discrimination, immigration status, financial aid, and protections for international students.
The violence survivors have suffered has left many isolated and alone, abandoned by their family, friends, schools -- and government. But now, President Obama has made a pledge: “To anyone out there who has ever been assaulted, you are not alone. You will never be alone. We have your back. I’ve got your back.”
Mr. President and the White House Task Force: Please don’t let us down.