Hundreds of Massachusetts students rallied this past Tuesday outside the statehouse, demanding state legislation to address campus sexual assault.
It’s been a rough year for student survivors. Last fall, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos revoked critical guidance outlining sexual assault survivors’ rights in schools. This spring, she plans to issue new regulations undermining student survivors rights even more. Meanwhile, DeVos is getting advice on Title IX policy from men’s rights activists best known for viciously harassing rape survivors, blaming women for domestic violence, and fabricating lies about how sexual assault is overreported (in reality, the vast majority of survivors never come forward).
Students can’t rely on an Administration run by a man who openly brags about grabbing women by the pussy to enforce survivors’ civil rights. And they don’t have to — states can step in to protect student survivors’ rights if the federal government won’t. Now, Massachusetts students are demanding exactly that.
More specifically, MA students are lobbying for better transparency, requiring all schools to conduct regular campus climate surveys gathering data about the prevalence of sexual violence in Massachusetts schools. They’re also asking for better resources, requiring schools to have partnerships with local service providers. As Olivia Harris, a student at Springfield Technical Community College and among those rallying on Tuesday, told me: she came out because, students should “have those resources available to them 24/7.” Students are also asking for legislation requiring all Massachusetts schools to adopt an amnesty policy prohibiting schools from punishing students who come forward to report sexual assault with alcohol or other code-of-conduct violations associated with the assault.
In the last three years, bills like these have passed everywhere from New York to Texas. Massachusetts students are leading the charge to make sure their state isn’t left behind — and they’ve been pivotal to shaping the legislation and pushing it forward. John Gabrieli, an organizer with the grassroots youth group Every Voice, said:
“What makes this effort so important is that it has been lead not by administrators or bureaucrats, but by students themselves. Students wrote the sexual assault climate survey bill, students advocated for these bills at public hearings, students have met face-to-face with legislators to tell their stories, and students from across the state showed up in force at the State House not to simply raise awareness, but to demand concrete, specific change.”
It’s a welcome reminder for state legislators, Betsy DeVos, and any schools that may want to go back to sweeping sexual violence under the rug. Students have been fighting campus sexual violence for years. They’re policy experts, badass organizers, and no matter what the Trump Administration does, they’re not going away. After years of fighting for our rights, they’re ready to do it again.
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