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Feds' approach to sexual misconduct in schools leaves victims more vulnerable

President Donald Trump with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (AP photo)

Karla Miller has been a counselor to rape survivors, run a rape-crisis center in Iowa City, administered polygraph tests to accused rapists and conducted risk assessments on the propensity to re-offend. She serves as an expert witness on sexual assaults. Since she began in this field, she has witnessed a sea change in the way education officials understand and respond to sexual assaults, thanks in large part to former President Obama's elevation of college sex-abuses as a civil rights issue under Title IX.

Now Miller and other Iowans who work on sexual misconduct prevention and response are horrified to see President Trump’s Department of Education fixing to dismantle those Obama-era policies. The changes afoot would both redefine sexual harassment and make universities and colleges less accountable for how they handle reports of it. Miller says such proposals “are based on ignorance of victims, perpetrators, and the dynamic of sexual abuse."

...They’d likely choose the tougher standard so few cases would meet the threshold, argues Miller. Linda Stewart Kroon, director of the Women's Resource and Action Center at the University of Iowa, and Kerri True-Funk, associate director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, note that’s a higher standard than is required in civil court proceedings. Kroon said it would likely make it even rarer for perpetrators to be held accountable and could “further decrease the number of survivors willing to come forward and report.”

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