Sexual Assault: Legal Standpoint

By Rocky Fodali, Trending Writer

Before discussing recent developments in sexual assault legislation, it is important to lay down the historical and legal framework of the issue. In cases involving college students, a few major pieces of legislation govern the procedure behind instances of sexual harassment. The most notable one is Title IX, which was composed in 1972 essentially to require gender equality in every educational institution that received federal funding. It states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” Therefore, its intended purpose is not only to foster an equality of the sexes, but also to protect those who are the victims of sexual harassment. It seems to be dismantling the foolish argument that “boys will be boys,” holding the educational program and the accused more accountable than ever before. Other notable acts include the Clery Act and the Campus SaVE Act, which reformed things like transparency requirements and disciplinary procedures for institutions. Together, these pieces of legislation hoped both to form consistency of sexual assault laws while also diminishing the problem.

As per RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network), “one out of every 6 American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime.”  With such a significant number of rape cases still existing today, legislation, as living documents, are in constant need of amendments. Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education under the Trump Administration, recently reformed Title IX legislation imposed by the Obama administration. DeVos targeted the 2011 guidance letter that was established because, in her opinion, it violated due process. School administrators were urged to be stricter in their policies against sexual harassment, as the standard of guilt changed from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to “preponderance of the evidence standard.” The Obama administration fiercely sought to combat this issue, only requiring there to be about 50 percent of the evidence of the evidence pointing to guilt. Seeing this as unfair, DeVos in her Q&A letter seeks to protect the individual rights of both parties. The accused now has more legal protections than before, allotting him or her with a full constitutional protection of due process.

From a strictly legal perspective, this legislation makes sense in that it seeks to uphold an important element of the constitution. However, it is also important to see why the Obama administration implemented the guidance letter. An ever-growing issue needed a stricter policy, especially because schools do not have significant investigative abilities. Therefore, although this policy protects individuals’ rights, it will not do anything to hinder the apparent rape culture in America


A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 7th print edition.

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