Betsy DeVos, This Is What Sexual Assault Survivors Want You to Know

Betsy DeVos, This Is What Sexual Assault Survivors Want You to Know

Originally published in Teen Vogue

July 12, 2017


In this op-ed, sexual assault survivors hold education secretary Betsy DeVos accountable for her role in enforcing Title IX protections.

Institutions have been failing survivors of sexual violence for decades.

Years after students across the country initiated a wave of activism to hold these very institutions accountable, we are still being forced to ask the same question: “Exactly who are they here to serve? The students, or themselves?”

As survivors of sexual violence, we’ve continually had to advocate for ourselves, often because no one would advocate for us. We have been forced to ask this question again and again, of all the institutions that are supposed to serve us: of our Title IX administrators, police officers, schools, teachers, deans, and now, our government. This is not a philosophical or academic question regarding the responsibilities of higher education administration. It drastically impacts our and our peers’ lives — and now we must pose it to the highest offices in the country.

Today, we 114 survivors of sexual assault, ask education secretary Betsy DeVos: “exactly who are you here to serve?”

For us, this is personal, and traumatizing. From the moment we were raped or assaulted, the question of who protects us has haunted us all. Collectively, we represent thousands of instances of institutional failure at colleges, universities, and K-12 schools. We suffered immensely, as did our academics, relationships, and overall well-being. Institutional betrayal forced many of us, and countless others, to leave school.

We do not simply represent the failures of the very institutions that are supposed to help us, but the need for strong and clear enforcement of Title IX.

After we shared our most painful personal stories loudly and clearly, the U.S. Department of Education and the White House reminded universities of their responsibilities under Title IX. The guidance, known as the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, was clear: universities have a legal responsibility to protect their students from gender discrimination, rather than universities protecting their own triple bottom line, often at the survivor’s expense. Accommodations and protections clarified in the guidance enabled many of us to complete our education. It gave us hope for the survivors who would come after us.

Our hope may have been premature. At every turn, Betsy DeVos has refused to committo enforcing Title IX. This reluctance is escalating into a full blown threat to future enforcement of Title IX. The administration already egregiously overturned 2016 guidance that protected transgender students from Title IX violations. Now, the administration has signaled that it is seriously considering further dismantling protections for survivors of sexual violence by weakening the oversight and enforcement mechanisms of the federal government — enforcement that many vulnerable students and survivors need.

We come forward with a simple request: Don’t.

Today, we 114 survivors of sexual assault write in a single unified voice, representing 25 states and the District of Columbia, and all political parties and views, to demand that the Trump Administration commit to doing more to serve survivors of sexual violence. Simply paying lip service to our need for safety on campus will not suffice.

We implore the administration to maintain the status quo of all current Title IX guidance, policy, Violence Against Women Act funding and programs: a status quo that has been created and upheld by public servants and legal professionals on both sides of the aisle. We demand they listen to the voices of students and survivors, rather than college lawyers and lobbyists, when determining the best course of administrative action to keep all students safe in school. We remind the Trump Administration that we, students and those who have suffered violence, are those the Department of Education is directed to serve — not college lawyers on a university payroll.

Survivors simply want the protections to remain in schools that the federal government and courts have institutionalized over the last four decades. We cannot imagine a more cruel or misguided policy agenda than one that withdraws protections from vulnerable students — especially coming from the administration of a man who has been repeatedly accused of committing sexual violence himself.

To Betsy Devos, President Trump and the rest of the Trump administration: Survivors of sexual assault have refused to be silent since this administration began its journey to the White House.

We will not be silenced now.

And to survivors of sexual assault everywhere: We believe you. We support you. You are not alone.


Jess Davidson, Colorado

Annie E. Clark, North Carolina

Anna Kim, New York

Britney Howard, Kentucky

Haley Smith, Indiana

Rachel Landau, New York

Anna Earley, North Carolina

Chardonnay Madkins, California

Emma Huffman, Indiana

Christine Fei, Maryland

Kirat Sandhu, Indiana

Danielle Bowman, Indiana

Jordan Dashow, Washington D.C.

Emily Santor, California

Meredith Tolleson, Colorado

Margot Mayer, New York

Olivia Storz, Colorado

Colleen Daly, Washington D.C

Shannon Saul, Colorado

Brittani Skyers-White, New York

Lily Nussbaum, Colorado

Kelly Davis, Pennsylvania

Maya Weinstein, Washington D.C.

Andrea Pino, Florida

Lupita Gonzalez, Minnesota

Meghan Hampsey, New York

Sofie Karasek, Massachusetts

Rebecca Krevat, New York

Alexandra Brodsky, Washington D.C.

Zoe Dorau, Washington D.C.

Meghan Warner, California

Maria Sauer, Wisconsin

Alicia Weigel, Texas

Faith Ferber, Illinois

Mahroh Jahangiri, Washington D.C.

Erin Bergen, Indiana

Bridgette Walling, California

Aliya Webermann, Maryland

Alyssa Peterson, Pennsylvania

Andrea Watson, Colorado

Dana Bolger, Missouri

Jacqueline Lin, California

Elena Maria Riecke, New York

Kristina Delgado, New York

Sophia Hermann, Texas

Ali Romero, Arizona

Amanda Ussak, New Jersey

IonaPearl Reid-Eaton, Massachusetts

Ciera Blehm, Colorado

Alicia Arman, California

Jasmin Enriquez, New York

Katya Palsi, New Jersey

Grace Sparapani, Texas

Jessica Zayas, New York

Chelsea Khamvong, California

Sejal Singh, Washington, D.C.

Mia Goldstein, Texas

Ro’Shawndra Aquilla Earvin, California

Saakshi Suri, Maryland

Amy Gu, Texas

Sage Carson, Delaware

Devon Schlotterbeck, Colorado

Samantha Skaller, New York

Michele Arnett, Virginia

Brittney Westphal, Colorado

Fabiana Diaz, Michigan

Mallory Visser, New Jersey

Katrina Semich, Washington D.C.

James Landrith, Virginia

Julia Teti, Pennsylvania

Brenda Young, North Carolina

Amy M. Blanchette, Massachusetts

Laurie Elizabeth, New York

Robin Dusek, Illinois

Elizabeth Bell, Texas

Lacie Wooten-Holway, Washington D.C.

Patrick Holway, Washington D.C.

Marissa Blanchard, New York

Molly Giesen-Fields, California

Kayla Herpers, Minnesota

Melissa Skolnick, Pennsylvania

Veronica Portillo Heap, Illinois

Lara Bryant, Washington D.C.

Julia Dixon, Ohio

Chelsea Barbee, Texas

Monica Villagomez, Indiana

Angela Rose, Virginia

Kenda Woolfson, California

Edwith Theogene, Florida

Kelly Rach, Minnesota

Silvia Zenteno, Virginia

Venkayla Haynes, Georgia

Sarah Davies, New York

Aniqa Raihan, Washington D.C.

Anne Marie Walen, Washington

Margaret M Smith, Michigan

Delaney Henderson, California

Amy Stanley, Texas

Meilan Smith, New York

Paige Schoppmann, Vermont

Ellie Freeman, New York

William McChriston III, Georgia

Olivia Hinerfeld, Oregon

Kelli Smith, Washington D.C.

Kathleen Krumbach, New York

Rachel Blum, Ohio

Natalie Delgado, California

Jaclyn Knaus, Pennsylvania

Olivia Duell, Wisconsin

Antonio Hernandez, Texas

Jocelyn Schur, Massachusetts

Megan Larson, California

Maggie Heckendorf, Colorado

Alexia Tillman, Illinois

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.