Photo and Words by Grace Vanderbur
On Monday February 24, the jury found Harvey Weinstein guilty of two counts of predatory sexual assault. As the case that sparked the #MeToo movement, Weinstein’s prosecution is changing the way sexual assault is talked about. In the midst of the case, President Trump’s administration is changing Title IX regulations on a federal level.
The Title IX laws will directly affect DePauw students and the way the school handles sexual harassment. According to the DePauw University website, Title IX is “a federal law which prohibits discrimination based on sex, including issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence, in any education program or activities that receive federal funding” with the goal being “to ensure equal opportunity and gender equity for all members of the DePauw community.”
Title IX Coordinator Juli Smith explained that DePauw’s process when handling a sexual assault report allows for two investigators to look into the report and gather evidence, and then the two come together to review evidence and decide if there has been a policy violation. If so, the sanctioning process begins. Smith went on to explain that the current Title IX policy is overseen by The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (ORC) and is not a federal law, but informal regulations given by the ORC.
The proposed bill would make Title IX a federal law and would more thoroughly enforce regulations nationwide. Because the law is still being processed and has not been finalized yet, the details of the proposal are sparse.
March 4th should mark the end of the limbo period, but with over 100,000 comments received about the proposal, the process could be extended another 30 days. Until the proposed bill is passed, not much is available on how the law may affect DePauw’s students specifically.
Currently, DePauw offers resources to help prevent sexual misconduct, with groups that teach what a healthy relationship is and other groups that dissect worrisome behaviors. While this “stop-prevent” remedy is helpful, incidents of sexual misconduct still occur on campus. When these incidents occur, the school works internally and externally to connect students with the best resources possible.
The Women’s Center is also available to support survivors with resources such as support groups, Sexual Assault Survivor Advocates (SASAs), and a safe room within the center.
“Our job is to make sure people have access to the resources and have the next steps,” Junior Women’s Center intern Jazz Kerr says. “There are bodies who are disproportionately targeted for sexual assault and the center recognizes that.”
In addition to interns, Director of the Women’s Center Sarah Ryan and Sexual Assault Prevention and Education office director Liz Getz are also available to help students.
Getz spoke on the impact DePauw may experience in the aftermath of the Weinstein case and Title IX changes.
“I think overall the entire #MeToo movement has changed people’s perspectives. I think it’s one more step towards dismantling structures that support sexual violence,” Getz said.
Students on campus shared a similar view.
Sophomore Amreha Huq noted, “This case has definitely made more room for women to come forward and speak about their traumatic experiences. Not just women, it gives hope and encouragement to all victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault to fight for justice against the wrong that has been done to them. If people can stand against an influential and power figure like Harvey Weinstein, why not against incidents happening on a college campus. This case is a glimpse of hope that justice can be achieved after all.”
While DePauw won’t see the effects of change overnight, the outlook is certainly hopeful that this will be a change for the better.
The Women’s Center is open from 10AM to 10PM daily. Contact Director Sarah Ryan at (765) 658-4173 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information is available on DPU’s website under Sexual Respect.