Black Women’s Blueprint, in collaboration with partners on the ground in Washington D.C. and in Atlanta, will take a two pronged approach to organizing in defense of Title IX and Black survivors on college campuses. Using our culturally specific resource It’s Not Just Personal: Your Guide to the Rights of Survivors of Sexual Violence and Their Allies (attached) as a base-building and advocacy tool, we will offer trainings and technical assistance to the administrators and staff, particularly at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the South and the DMV area, on their obligations to protect survivors of sexual violence on campus. As we previously were an Office of Violence Against Women Campus Technical Assistance Provider, Black Women’s Blueprint has built connections and relationships with HBCU’s that we hope to strengthen, particularly on campuses in the Washington D.C. and surrounding Maryland and Virginia area, as well as in the South, particularly in Atlanta and Florida, and of course in our base of New York City.
Simultaneously, we will organize student leaders on campuses who will be integral in holding their administrations accountable to the rights of survivors and the responsibility campus administrators have to protect and defend the rights of survivors over the rights of the accused. We will continue to develop and implement our culturally specific bystander intervention curriculum and training (images attached), that was developed in early spring 2017 when Black Women’s Blueprint organized with college students around the country in order to produce bystander intervention that spoke to the reality of potential survivors and really put the onus on student communities and potential harm doers to intervene. Through our conversations with young men in our communities we were shocked to hear of the various ways young college women are targeted especially in the first year when most sexual assaults occur. We wanted to be creative and develop images we can use in various media, including our curriculum to get young men (and others) talking about becoming interventionists and moving beyond the language of bystander intervention.
For many Black communities, it is not enough to practice the 5 steps of bystander intervention; it is much more nuanced. There is much more to consider. Though the images far from complete the story, we look forward to developing a bystander intervention curriculum which speaks to our community members and campus men in particular as if they are already interventionists. And this paired with our CUP resource, will explore what it really means to have community accountability for survivors of sexual violence, both tacking primary and secondary prevention efforts. Through the organizing and leadership development of student activists and campus violence survivors we hope to continue building the political power of Black women. The activists and leaders that we work with will be heavily involved in our policy advocacy work, ensuring that when there are Congressional hearings, press conferences and other political advocacy efforts in Washington D.C. and elsewhere, the voices and experiences of Black survivors will be heard.
Additionally, as more threats to Title IX and other essential civil rights education protections continue to be lobbed out by the current administration, some schools are being proactive in speaking out and standing up for survivors. Through our work with administrators and student leaders, we have a goal of making sure that administrators at HBCUs issue statements and make meaningful campus policy changes to support and defend the rights of the Black survivors on their college campuses.
What is happening with Title IX: Under the guidance of President Trump, the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVose announced in early September that she was rescinding Obama-era guidance on school sexual assault, effective immediately. The now overturned 2011 Obama era Dear Colleague letter and subsequent 2014 Question and Answer Guidance outlined the responsibilities and roles of colleges, universities and other educational institutions in investigating allegations of sexual assault, as well as provided guidance for how grievance and disciplinary processes should be handled. Title IX as a whole protects students from discrimination based on sex at educational institutions--K-12 and higher education -- that receive federal funding. Most notably known for ensuring that men and women had equal access to sports offerings in school, Title IX is an essential part in ensuring that survivors of sexual assault on campuses, have support, that schools take preventative measures to prevent sexual assault and dating violence, and that students have equitable and fair access to a disciplinary hearing. The most significant alteration enacted by the Dear Colleague letter was that it explicitly detailed that Title IX is relevant not only to sexual harassment, but to all forms of sexual violence. By specifying this, the DoE aimed to ensure that all students would feel safe enough both to learn, and to report any instances of sexual misconduct should they occur. Devos’s changes will require institutions to present more evidence against the accused: in the past, preponderance of evidence was needed, meaning that the evidence provided simply had to be convincing. Now, Title IX cases will require enough evidence to satisfy the “clear and convincing” standard, which dictates that more evidence be provided in order to be convincing. In addition to this, schools no longer have to resolve Title IX disputes within sixty days and can use mediation and other “informal” means of resolution.
Even with the protections of Title IX, Black women and girls are not protected. While, only 44% of white women report sexual assault to their college campuses, only 17% of black women do. Additionally, nearly 40% of of cases that are reported go un-investigated by colleges and universities. At the end of Obama’s Administration, the Office of Civil Rights which investigates potential civil rights violations had opened 304 investigations underway related to sexual violence issues at 223 colleges and universities. Hundreds of campuses across the nation are under investigation due to their administration's unwillingness or lack of preparedness to adequately investigate claims of sexual violence. It is no wonder so few Black women report when they are sexually assaulted. Instead of viewing these cumulative number of violations of human rights as an endemic symptom of patriarchy, this administration has spread a false narrative that somehow the rights of those accused are what is violated.
We as Black women know the reality. We know that 1 in 5 women on college campuses are raped, most in the first months of their freshman and sophomore years. We know that up to 60% of Black girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18, at home, in church, at school. We know that the result of this violence for some is that they are pushed into the sexual abuse to prison pipeline, by school disciplinary procedures that are discriminatory and oppressive. We know that as young adults we bring our experiences of violence with us to college campuses, and we know that vulnerability to sexual assault increases in adulthood for childhood survivors. We know all of this and we also know that we live in a country where Black women and black girls’ bodies are hyper-sexualized, where black girls are seen as older or more mature, and where black women are often silenced from within our own communities to protect the Black men who rape us. The burden of proof of assault is already too high and the likelihood of an equitable, fair and unbiased hearing process already too out of reach for too many of us, student or not. It is unacceptable for the Administration to rescind these guidelines making the burden of proof higher and furthering the oppression and discrimination against Black women on college campuses and in K-12 schools.
We are seeking $21,000 to support our organizing and advocacy efforts to address changes in the proposed Title IX protections on college campuses.
Our break down is as follows:
$10,000 - Travel stipends for project partners to gather for needed in-person strategic planning and development meetings. Stipends for project partners and students to travel to DC for advocacy efforts for Title IX.
$4,000 - Materials and costs associated with outreach on college campuses general public and educational materials to be dispersed.
$5,000 - Communication plan development with marketing consultants and disbursement through a variety platforms.
$2,000 - General costs for administration, program development, supplies and materials.