By Shayna Herszage, Opinion Editor
On May 6, the U.S. Department of Education, led by education secretary Betsy DeVos, announced changes to the Title IX federal regulations. According to the changes, which are due to take effect on August 14, athletic coaches and other school personnel are no longer “mandatory reporters” of sexual abuse or assault within the school.
This decision, on the surface, is meant to protect the rights of the victims and the school personnel by granting the choice to not report a case of assault. However, this change will inevitably lead to a rise in instances of sexual assault which will not be reported, because the previous mandatory reporters are no longer legally obligated to take action.
In a case of sexual assault or abuse, a person may not wish to report the abuser to authorities for various reasons, such as self-blame, wishing to protect the reputation of the abuser, or being afraid of the potential social repercussions of being a victim. While these are valid concerns for a victim to have, reporting abusers is important for the greater good of society. Otherwise, abusers can repeat their crimes, whether with the same victims, or with others. Without the obligation for coaches and school personnel to report known cases of such crimes, fewer cases will be reported and fewer abusers will be brought to justice.
As a result of a lowered percentage of abusers being reported on a school or legal level, the number of instances of abuse will, in fact, increase. If there is a lower chance of consequences for these actions, people will no longer view a violent, illegal action of assault or abuse as a “risky” or “potentially life-ruining” action. A person may believe that if there are not mandatory reporters, they can prevent the victim from reporting the crime, and there will be no repercussions. However, while the abusers can possibly get off scot-free with this new policy, there are still lasting effects on the psychological and physical well-being of the victims.
When I was growing up, I often saw signs about the Shalom Task Force’s abuse helpline in synagogue and school bathrooms. The signs state: “It hurts to call a domestic abuse hotline. It hurts more not to.” The phrase means that, while reporting an abuser is far from an easy experience, bringing justice to abusers can make the victim, and the rest of the world, safer. In the time of the #MeToo movement, victims are being encouraged to come forward and report their abusers, no matter how much it hurts. With this new change to the Title IX policy, we risk regressing as a society.