Victim advocates fear new sex assault campus rules will make reporting harder

Friday, September 22, 2017 06:39PM
Under new rules issued by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, colleges and universities will be allowed to use a higher standard of evidence before finding students responsible for campus sexual assault.


LOS ANGELES - Under new rules issued by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, colleges and universities will be allowed to use a higher standard of evidence before finding students responsible for campus sexual assault.

"So making it harder to have proof that someone did that to you to feel safe is not OK," college student Abby Nunn said.

The change ends guidance put in place by the Obama administration, which instructed schools to use a preponderance of evidence standard when considering sexual assault cases.

The new rules had long been sought by advocates for accused students, who complained that the lower burden of proof was unfair.

"The notion that a school must diminish due process rights to better serve the victim only creates more victims," Betsy DeVos said during a press conference.

Some fear the changes will discourage victims from speaking up.

"When we have guidelines in place to keep people safe, those are not for the intention of trying to take away liberties from those who are being accused," said Melodie Kruspodin, with Peace Over Violence.

In a statement, University of California President Janet Napolitano said she worries the guidelines "will in effect weaken sexual violence protections, prompt confusion among campuses about how best to respond to reports of sexual violence and sexual harassment and unravel the progress that so many schools have made in ensuring fair, timely procedures for both survivors and the accused."

The rules issued by DeVos are temporary, and it's unclear how many colleges will embrace the higher standard of proof.
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