On Sept. 7, the Trump administration, acting through Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, announced a formal review of Obama-era guidelines related to sexual assault protections. Obama’s guideline had spurred universities to more aggressively investigate campus sexual assault due to the intolerable conditions perpetrated against college women on U.S. college campuses.
This change is in direct contradiction to current rape shield laws, which bar the defendant from bringing up the victim’s sexual past in sex crime cases. In the 1970s, some states created their own rape shield laws; 1994’s Violence Against Women Act is the federal version.
Now the highest U.S. law enforcement agency is recommending a policy that would only serve to shame survivors who dare to report and discourage others from speaking up in rape trials. This recommended change in policy would shift even more unrelated harm to the side of the accused victims and is seriously alarming. The recently leaked U.S. Justice Department memo recommends that, “Every complainant’s sexual history, if relevant, may be introduced at the hearing.”
Currently, questions about the complainant’s sexual history with anyone other than the accused perpetrator is never permitted. Prevent this change.