‘Now it’s harder for sexual assault survivors to get justice,’ says student rape activist

Betsy DeVos has changed guidelines for colleges handling sexual assault


Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos rolled back Title IX guidelines today to give students accused of sexual assault greater protection against claims.

She declared that colleges may use a higher standard of "clear and convincing" evidence than is currently needed by Obama-era laws.

Speaking out against DeVos' new ruling is Kayla Parker – a student at the University of Tennessee, and the president of Students Who Stand, a support group for college sexual assault survivors – who told The Tab she is "mortified" about the new ruling.

Kayla Parker, a student at the University of Tennessee

Kayla Parker, a student at the University of Tennessee

She told The Tab:

I'm mortified about the rolling back of these guidelines. I didn't expect it to happen so quickly. I'm a student at UT and I was sexually assaulted by another student in January 2016. It happened during the middle of UT's big lawsuit, where they settled for millions of dollars to sexual assault survivors. Because of that lawsuit, they had to make a lot of changes to how they handle sexual assault. Since I was sexually assaulted during that time, I saw the university making a conscious effort to follow Title IX guidelines. They had a vested interest in upholding all of this, and because of it my perpetrator was indefinitely suspended after he was found responsible for sexual assault.

Now these rollbacks have happened, I wonder how it would have affected my case. Preponderance of evidence was the standard used in my case – it was essential for me, as it is in most sexual assault cases, because it's very difficult to get "clear and convincing" evidence. In my case, there was video of him carrying me into his room, but there was no video of inside of the room where it happened. So they were able to use my testimony and find him guilty.

With that clear and convincing evidence standard, I would not have been able to move on with my case, because nobody videotaped the assault. That's what "clear and convincing" evidence would have to be, short of him admitting it.

It's really troubling. Not just for me – I'm the president of a sexual assault group on campus and I have to support myself, 22 women and one man with the fact that they feel a lot more unsafe on campus now. DeVos is actively advocating for people who have been falsely accused, which is only two percent of accusations. She's going off of those statistics when making policy changes and it really affects people on campus.

Rolling back these guidelines does nothing to make campuses safer. The guidelines are in place to hold schools accountable. When schools are not held accountable, you have fewer people coming forward to report crimes, they feel less safe, and universities sweep it under the rug.