U of A rape victim says new rules make reporting rape harder

U of A rape victim says new rules make reporting rape harder

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A delicate and controversial discussion just got much harder for victims of rape on college campuses.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ended Obama-era guidelines on campus sexual assault after concluding they were unfair to students accused of rape.

The guidelines from the Obama Administration lowered the burden of proof on the part of victims to a preponderance of evidence.

DeVos said the burden of proof should lie with the victim.

We talked to a University of Arizona junior, a victim who says it's difficult enough for rape victims even under the old rules.

"It's already hard enough for rape victims to come forward," she said. "It took me three months to tell my friends, to tell my family."

When she did come forward to report it, she said nothing happened to the accused. He's still on campus. and despite a year of therapy on her part, it brought the memories back when she saw him on campus.

"I was panicking," she said. "It was just like I was back there and I was back in the room, seeing the guy do that, seeing the guy on top of me."

She gets angry at those who might say she brought this on herself.

"He knew I was drunk, he knew I could not consent to anything and he still did it," she said.

The University policy is very clear.

"Consent in the context of sexual activity means informed and freely given words or actions that indicate a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity."

Under the directives issued by the Department on Friday, the schools will continue to make their own rules for the time being.

"We believe our process on campus is fair to all involved and very effective," said Chris Sigurdson, the Director of Communications for the University of Arizona. "So we're going to keep the procedure as it exists now."

However, since the Education Department is going through a public comment period, things may change in the future which means the university may have to abide by new directives.

Sigurdson says for the time being, things will not change.

The campus policy on sexual assault has been established through decades of dealing with Title XI, the law in 1973 which ended discrimination between the sexes on college campus.

"Our commitment to battling sexual harassment and violence is strong and we will maintain it," he said.

But the victim we talked to doesn't feel the rules go far enough to protect them.

"It happens all the time," she said. "And nothing happens."

She said at the beginning, like so many victims, she couldn't go outside, she couldn't see her friends, but finally realized she would not be defined by this.

"I'm stronger because I'm coming back here," she said of the university. "This sucks but I'm going to make the best of the situation."

What broke her out of her shell after three months was her love of family.

"I knew the only way I'd get through this was with family support," she said. "My family and I are very close."

Not everyone has the support of family and she says some women on campus just hold it in.

It's left of to the victims many times to find the justice they feel they deserve.

"I wrote him a letter and I said I might be the victim right now, but you're the one who has to live with yourself for the rest of your life," she said.

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