It feels like things on Capitol Hill have been in constant motion since January. Lost, in the midst of so many fast-moving and pressing policy concerns, have been the Administration’s steps to roll back important advances of programs to address violence against women.
Last month Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the department would rescind current guidelines regarding the reporting and investigation of campus sexual assault under Title IX implemented by the Obama Administration.
Secretary DeVos defended the decision, saying a new Title IX regulation would better serve students and schools, and in particular would provide greater fairness for students accused of campus sexual assault in investigation proceedings.
The change will allow schools to require higher standards of evidence in campus sexual assault reporting. Many lawyers and advocates for survivors of sexual assault fear the chilling effect the change is likely to have on reporting sexual assaults. Sen. Patty Murray, a member of the Senate committee on education cautioned that the decision “may cause survivors of sexual assault to go back into the shadows….”
Under our current system, it was difficult enough for survivors to report sexual assault. Understandably, under this change, many will be more reluctant to turn to campus authorities. In addition to the policy hurdles this move adds to a collective atmosphere of skepticism, doubt and scrutiny heaped on survivors, who have already endured a nightmare.
Once again, we are seeing attempts to cloak violence against women in silence.
This comes in the midst of the federal budget battle, in which funding for domestic violence prevention and response programs under the Violence Against Women Act is being threatened. The programs that could face cuts include emergency shelters, counseling, crisis lines, and law enforcement response for the victims of gender-based violence, as well as safety net programs that are critical for survivors.
October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, making it an ideal time to shine the light on the realities of violence against women and to strengthen, not weaken, our policy solutions.
Religious communities have long been complicit in silencing and sanctioning violence against women. So it is even more important that we, us as people of faith, break the silence and take action to stop the violence. There are congregations courageously taking up this call, and you can join their efforts. Below are two ways you can join faith communities in responding to violence against women:
- Participate in the Speak Out Sabbath, October 13-15 – The We Will Speak Out campaign has compiled resources to support clergy in speaking out against sexual and gender-based. Worship resources, sermon starters, litanies, and children's resources are available.
- Connect to the work of the Washington-based Interfaith Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Join their Thurderclap (an opportunity to raise awareness via your social media accounts) on October 16 and RSVP for a panel discussion on the faith response to deportation of survivors via Facebook live.