How New Narrowed Title IX Regulations Push Survivors Further Into the Dark
Content Warning: This piece uses strong language surrounding sexual assault and self harm.
Under the new proposed Title IX regulations, one of the most disturbing changes is the redefinition of sexual harassment. Previously, sexual harassment was defined as unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature (advances, comments, etc) that creates a hostile work or school environment. Now, sexual harassment is "unwelcome conduct on the basis of sex that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity; or Sexual assault." To fully understand how much the definition has changed, let us first focus on the term severe. If a classmate tells me that I am a cunt who deserves to be r*ped because I have a vagina, is that severe enough to be considered sexual harassment? It may be. But what about pervasive? If this person doesn't say those disgusting things to me every single day, it won't be considered pervasive. Next is objectively offensive. Well, am I a cunt? Here I am, writing this blog post, not shying away from showing my anger or my passion. In fact, I am being very blunt about it. And for that, some people would think that calling me a cunt is not being offensive. It is just true. Do I deserve to be r*ped because I am a loud and unafraid womxn? Some people would think so. Finally, do these comments deny me equal access to school? People often try to invalidate the feelings of survivors, especially when the crime is not physical. “You could just ignore it.” “Don't let one person prevent you from getting your education or participating in the activities you care about.” “This person never physically hurt you, so it can't be that bad.” “Some people use insults as a form of affection.” “You have no reason to be afraid, this person would never DO anything.” “It could be worse”
This redefinition of sexual harassment is disgusting. Students may need to put up with weeks of abuse before they could take action. During that time, they cannot access school resources for protection. They will be forced to suffer in silence. Yet, this is not the only atrocious proposed change to the Title IX regulations. The new regulations don't cover study abroad cases or cases of sexual assault that occurred at an off campus event which is not sanctioned by the school. Georgetown is in a city. Though many students live on campus, much of student life occurs off campus in bars, restaurants, concerts, or friend's apartments. If a student is assaulted by another student off campus, but the perpetrator happens to be in one of the survivor's classes or living in the survivor's dorm, the survivor is ineligible to file a Title IX case. Not only that, they cannot get moved out of the class/dorm.
These new regulations also attempt to remove the 60 day timeline for investigations. Schools can drag out investigations for prolonged periods of time and even try to wait out the students who filed cases. Additionally, these new rules stipulate that if a student reports to both the school and the police, the school investigation cannot begin until the criminal proceedings finish. Rape cases can take years to make their way through the criminal justice system. During this time, the perpetrator and the survivor may graduate. The survivor will spend years at the same school as their perpetrator. This rule does nothing but decentivize students from reporting assault to the police, and thus protects rapists from facing criminal prosecution.
These are just a few of many other sickening revisions to Title IX. All of these regulations were designed to limit the liability of the school and to take safety away from survivors. And if these regulations are not defeated in court, they will become law. As students, we must do two things: force Georgetown to do its best with any leeway given in new regulations (including actions like advocating for them to pledge to keep the 60 day timeline when investigating Title IX cases) and ensure that on campus resources for survivors are strengthened.