In the wake of the U.S. Department of Education calling into question federal Title IX protections, Attorney General Andy Beshear firmly stated his office will continue to seek justice for survivors of campus sexual assault, even if the federal government will not.
Yesterday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos delivered remarks indicating that the department may not be as aggressive in fighting campus sexual assault and protecting survivors.
In response, Beshear said that his office is committed to maintaining protections for survivors of campus sexual assault, while working to increase reporting, investigations and prosecution of the crime.
“I have made seeking justice for victims of campus sexual assault a top priority for my office,” said Beshear. “Campus sexual assault is a grave and real threat to students’ safety – and I want survivors to know that my office will continue to stand up for their rights and fight to preserve Title IX protections.”
According to statistics, nearly 1 in 5 women on campus will be a victim of sexual assault, and the FBI estimates that between 92 and 98 percent of reports of rape are truthful. Yet, victims face many barriers in being believed, reporting sexual assault and finding justice.
Under Title IX, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights’ current guidance instructs colleges on how to respond to and address sexual assault incidents. The guidance requires the appointment of a Title IX coordinator, mandatory reporting by responsible school officials and the implementation of procedures for handling investigations and hearings.
In a July letter, Beshear and 19 other state attorneys general asked federal education officials to work with them before rolling back protections for survivors of sexual assault on college campuses.
A core mission of Beshear’s is to seek justice for victims of sexual assault and his Office of Victims Advocacy has been at the forefront of this effort in Kentucky.
Over the past year, the office collaborated with the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs to create the #VoiceofJustice video contest to raise awareness for the sexual assault hotline, 800-656-HOPE, and promote reporting and active bystanding.
The office is also providing trainings for campus and community groups, prosecutors and investigators on seeking justice for victims of campus sexual assault, including criminal, civil and administrative rights.
The office also created a Survivors Council, which includes survivors of different crimes including individuals who have survived campus sexual assault, to directly advise and assist the office on matters related to victims of crime, including training, awareness and policy initiatives.
Beshear’s office is also working to increase transparency in the reporting of sexual assault on Kentucky’s college campuses.
Beshear said students and survivors of campus sexual assault should know they are not alone and that his Office of Victims Advocacy is here to help.
To contact the Office of Victims Advocacy call 502-696-5320 or email Executive Director Gretchen Hunt at Gretchen.Hunt@ky.gov.