It seems as though Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has finally done something right in the realm of education. Thanks to DeVos, new laws are in the process of being put in place to re enforce sexual misconduct and harassment penalties on campuses. As stated in the New York Times in an article by Erica Green, “The rules will for the first time cement domestic violence, dating violence and stalking as forms of gender discrimination that schools must address under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs that receive government funding” (2020).
What this means is that school officials will now be trained to address complaints of harassment as civil rights violations; something that in the past has been taken much more seriously than issues regarding domestic violence and assault in campus settings. One of the larger issues that has made this law so prevalent, is that authorities and schools alike look at domestic violence and harassment as ‘personal problems,’ or issues that can and should be handled by the parties affected. But, what about when those problems become present in everyday life? When the victim cannot even go to class without feeling unsafe?
That’s what is happening on and off campuses all over the States; Girls are being ignored when coming forward to get help, only to end up fearing for their safety in places that no one should feel scared. The New York Times article highlights a story of a student that ended in tragedy, all because her fears were ignored. Lauren McClusky, 21, a track star at the University of Utah was hunted down and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 2018. This is after she made more than 20 complaints to her school, to six different staff members, all of which were ignored. Her parents say the school responded to Laurens fears with nonchalance due to the “assumption that Lauren, like most women, was unreasonable, hysterical, hypersensitive, paranoid, overreacting to the situation and not being truthful.” (2020). Unfortunately, this is how female students are treated far too often, and Lauren's story is one of many that ended in tragedy in the last few years.
As a female student who has faced dating violence before, and has stood with others in the midst of their own traumatic experiences, it is about damn time that those who come forward for help, for acknowledgement, and for security are taken seriously; that abusers face the consequences of their actions. I know what it is like to not be heard, and to be told to be quiet, and to calm down. I am over it. We are over it.
It sickens me that it has come to this point, to girls being murdered, for laws to be changed and created to keep us safe. It is not enough for sexual harassment and domestic abuse to be treated as what they are (crimes), but campuses and authorities are being made to re-wire the way they respond to such issues, to be taken more seriously as ‘civil rights issues,’ which is what they have always been anyways. Also mentioned in the NYT’s article is that these crimes have increased in recent years; truthfully though, more women are just coming forward and speaking out against their abusers, shining a larger light on the problem at hand.
I am not sure that this law will make much of a difference in the statistics of dating violence on campuses, but I do hope that it encourages more women (and harassment/abuse victims of any gender) to come forward and tell their stories. It is hard, and it is scary, but the more we share and tell our truths the more people will listen, and the more change will come.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: (888) 763-2995