The Dear Colleague Letter of 2011 was an important turning point for survivors of sexual violence. Prior to this guidance, survivors were left to carry the burden of attending school in an environment that felt and – in many instances – was unsafe, while struggling to succeed academically as a result of trauma, lack of support, and those who harmed them not being held accountable. This guidance on Title IX created a pathway to ensure student survivors had access to accommodations, grievance procedures, and support on campus. It also attempted to create a major shift in campus culture, where administrators swept these issues under the rug far too often.
Although the complexity of navigating these issues in schools is far from easy – even with the previous guidance – rescinding these standards is a step backward in addressing the very real consequences of sexual violence within colleges, high schools, and middle schools.
We will continue to stand by survivors and advocate for their needs within schools – assuring success as a student and healing as a survivor. Student survivors should not have to choose between the two!
While we continue our work with institutions that remain committed to upholding standards that protect students against all discrimination, we simultaneously work to educate and provide resources that impede sexual violence from occurring in the first place.
In Illinois, RVA worked with the Attorney General to pass the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act, a law that strengthened the provisions of Title IX in requiring Illinois schools adequately respond to sexual violence and a law that will remain in place even with the recent changes on Title IX guidance by the Department of Education. We hope this law will continue to be used by students, parents, and advocates in Illinois to work with school administrators in understanding the importance of maintaining a learning environment safe for all students, including and especially survivors of sexual violence.
Our work does not stop in Illinois – it is important to demand better for students and survivors across the country. Regardless of the narrative around sexual violence in schools at the federal level, we remain committed to survivors everywhere in assuring you are heard and supported. We will not give up fighting for you and believing you.
We encourage everyone to get involved and take action toward creating a society free of sexual violence. Join End Rape on Campus and Know Your IX for seven weeks of dedicated action – write open letters to university presidents, calling on them to hold the line and stop the Administration from taking us backward.
Statement from our Director of Programs and Public Policy, Sarah Layden.