Comment on Proposed Title IX Regulation Changes #MeToo #TimesUp #EndRapeCulture

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The changes Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has proposed will have detrimental life-long consequences to our current and future generations of students. This does not just effect college age students. Title IX Regulations are also for K-12 students. All students have a right to attend school free from sexual assault and harassment of any kind, including those that happen off-campus by students.

I submitted a comment and you can too here.

Office for Civil Rights, Depart of Education                                                                                                 

February 15, 2019

Via Regulations.gov

Dear Secretary of Education,

I am writing as a parent, professional, survivor of sexual assault, and a taxpaying US citizen.

I respectfully OPPOSE the proposed changes to the Title IX Regulations, as follows.

As a PARENT:

My daughter was sexually assaulted by her teacher. After the initial investigation, we were told that it was my daughter’s word against the teacher’s word and that even though the Forensic Interview Specialist found her credible and articulate, they could not prove what happened so there would be no case against the teacher. Nine months later, more victims came forward. More victims came forward at the sentencing of the teacher as well. We learned that he had complaints against him and had been sexually assaulting his students since his first year of teaching. My daughter had him in his seventh year of teaching. It should have never happened to my daughter and would not have happened to my daughter if the school had done something about it after those first complaints.

The proposed changes to the Title IX regulations would make it even more difficult for victims to be believed and get the help they need to move forward.

·          34.1% of students who have experienced sexual assault dropout of college, higher than the overall dropout rate for college students (Mengo & Black, 2015).

·         More than 40% of college students who were sexually victimized also reported experiences of institutional betrayal (Freyd, 2018).

My daughter is currently on a leave of absence from her University due to her mental health issues as a direct result of the assault.

As a PROFESSIONAL:

After the incident with my daughter, I became a certified victim advocate, certified sexual assault counselor. I started a non-profit called Educate to Eliminate where I facilitate sexual abuse and assault prevention training.

I am an on-call Sexual Assault Response Team Advocate through a local rape crisis center who works with victims of sexual assault weekly and sits with them during their forensic exams for their rape kits.

I am on the San Diego Trauma-Informed Guide Team. We train others on trauma-informed care. The Title IX Regulations should be written by a team that is trauma-informed to understand the realities of sexual assault, victimization, victim behavior, offender behavior, false-reports facts, recanting facts, data on victims and reporting, mental health of victims, the life-long PTSD and other health issues caused by not supporting the victim in a trauma-informed manner.  

Those of us who work with sexual assault survivors or have survived sexual assault ourselves, understand how extremely hard it is for victims to come forward and usually only choose to do so in order to protect future victims. We also know that sexual assault offenders usually repeat their offenses and have more than one victim. If they are not convicted for their crime or have no consequences to pay they feel empowered, brazen, and untouchable. This leads to more victims of assault. Research suggests that two-thirds or more of college men who commit rape are repeat rapists. 1

False reports are extremely rare. The statistics show that men are more likely to be sexually assaulted than falsely accused. Only 2%-10% of reported cases of sexual assault are false (Lisak et al., 2010).2

 

Due to my professional experience, here are the issues I have with the proposed rules:

Off-Campus

·         The proposed rule will only assign responsibility to schools to investigate assaults that occur on campus. 87% of college students who live off-campus.

·         In the 2010-11 school year, 36% of girls, 24% of boys, and 30% of all students in grades 7-12 experienced sexual harassment online (AAUW, 2011)

o   18% of them didn’t want to go to school, 13% found it hard to study, 17% had trouble sleeping, 8% stayed home from school (AAUW, 2011). (The numbers are higher for combined online + offline harassment).

Cross-Examination During Investigation Process

The proposed rule requires cross examination to take place in real time during the hearing.

·         The rule allows the survivor to be in a different room while they are being questioned.

·         The rule does not allow any other accommodations and will set up a scenario where a survivor cannot follow through with completing a Title IX hearing without having their credibility questioned by a lawyer or representative.

·         The practice of cross-examination can be retraumatizing to survivors. It is often rooted in gender stereotypes and rape myths that contribute to a “victim-blaming” narrative (Zydervelt, 2016).3

Definition of Sexual Harassment:

The proposed rule will severely limit the definition of sexual harassment.

As explained in OCR’s 2001 Guidance, when a student sexually harasses another student, the harassing conduct creates a hostile environment if the conduct is sufficiently serious that it interferes with or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the school’s program. The more severe the conduct, the less need there is to show a repetitive series of incidents to prove a hostile environment, particularly if the harassment is physical. Indeed, a single or isolated incident of sexual harassment may create a hostile environment if the incident is sufficiently severe. For instance, a single instance of rape is sufficiently severe to create a hostile environment” (The United States Department of Education, 2011 p. 3).

Fair Process in Campus Discipline:

Preponderance of the evidence is the appropriate civil standard to use in campus conduct cases. And the only standard that treats all students with fundamental fairness (Loschiavo & Waller).4

 

As a SURVIVOR:

I am a sexual assault survivor who was not believed when I reported. The damage that has done to my mental health is far greater than the sexual assault itself. Not having the support I needed has wreaked havoc on my personal and professional life and stunted my growth. It has taken me many years to recover and be strong enough to help others. It has been an issue that revisits me from time to time because trauma becomes a part of your DNA and is embedded into your physical body.5

·         Women who are sexually assaulted or abused are over twice as likely to have PTSD, depression, and chronic pain following the violence as non-abused women (Woods et al., 2005).6

·         An estimated 40% of rape victims suffer from severe emotional distress (requiring mental health treatment) (Miller, Cohen, & Rossman, 1993).

 

As a TAXPAYING US CITIZEN:

The average taxpayer does not understand that this is crime that all US Citizens, pay the price in more ways than one.

·         A single rape costs victim between $87,000 to $240,776 (Miller, Cohen, & Wiersema, 1996).7

·         More than one-fifth of intimate partner rape survivors lose an average of 8 days of paid work per assault (NCIPC, 2003).8

·         The average cost of being a rape victim is estimated at $110,000. This compares with victim costs of $16,000 for robbery, and $36,000 for drunk driving (Children's Safety Network Economic and Insurance Resource Center).

 

In conclusion, please consider the detrimental life-time consequences the proposed changes to the Title IX Regulations will have on current and future generations.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best Regards,

Christy Heiskala

Founder, Educate to Eliminate, 501c3

Certified Victim Advocate

Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence Counselor

Sexual Assault Response Team Member

San Diego Trauma-Informed Guide Team Member

Sexual Abuse Prevention Expert & Trainer

 

P.O. Box 2243, Imperial Beach, CA 91933

savekids@educatetoeliminate.com

 Sources:

1)      Dr. Jim Hopper, Repeat Rape by College Men

2)      Lisak, D., Gardinier, L., Nicksa, S. C., & Cote, A. M. (2010). False Allegations of Sexual Assault: An Analysis of Ten Years of Reported Cases. Violence Against Women,16(12), 1318-1334. doi:10.1177/1077801210387747.

3)      Zydervelt, S.,Zajac, R., Kaladelfos, A. and Westera, N. (2016). Lawyers’ Strategies for Cross-Examining Rape Complainants: Have we Moved Beyond the 1950s? British Journal of Criminology, 57(3), 551–569.

4)      Loschiavo, C. & Waller, J. L. Association for Student Conduct Administration. The Preponderance of Evidence Standard: Use In Higher Education Campus Conduct Processes. Retrieved from: http://www.theasca.org/files/The%20Preponderance%20of%20Evidence%20Standard.pdf

5)      The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel Van der Kolk

6)      Woods, A., Page, G., O’Campo, P., Pugh, L., Ford, D., & Campbell, J. (2005). The mediation effect of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms on the relationship of intimate partner violence and IFN-γ levels. American Journal of Community Psychology, 36(1), 159-175. doi:10.1007/s10464-005-6240-7

7)      Miller, T.R., Cohen, M.A., & Wiersema, B. (1996). Victim costs and consequences: A new look. National Institute of Justice. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/victcost.pdf; Delisi, M. (2010). Murder by numbers: Monetary costs imposed by a sample of homicide offenders. The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 21, 501‐513.; Cohen, M. A., and Piquero, A.R. (2009) “New Evidence on the Monetary Value of Saving a High Risk Youth,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 25(1), 25–49. French, Michael T., Kathryn E. McCollister, and David Reznik (2010) The Cost of Crime to Society: New Crime‐Specific Estimates for Policy and Program Evaluation. Drug Alcohol Dependence, 108(1‐2), 98‐109

8)      NCIPC (2003). Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 2003.