By Beth Battaglino, RN, CEO, and Michael D. Miller, MD, Senior Policy Advisor, HealthyWomen
HealthyWomen recently submitted comments to the Department of Education concerning its proposal to change federal rules for how schools would handle sexual harassment and assaults involving students.
HealthyWomen opposes the proposed changes to Title IX because sexual harassment and sexual assaults have long-lasting, dire consequences for women's physical and mental health, and their economic productivity. The proposed changes do not consider how such gender-based attacks particularly affect women's health. For example:
- Girls and women are the subject of the majority of sexual harassments and assaults.
- Women experience greater physiological responses to stressors such as harassment and assaults and thus experience longer-lasting harms.
- Women subject to sexual harassment and assaults are more likely to disrupt or discontinue their education.
- Women earn lower lifetime earnings than men.
- Rolling back protections to prevent girls and women from being subjected to sexual harassment and assaults will only exacerbate current and historical inequities and harm women for generations to come.
- Sexual harassment and assaults affect not only the individuals who are harassed or assaulted, but cause long-term harm to their families, their communities and our nation's fundamental strength and opportunities for economic growth.
- The proposed changes are not simply procedural, bureaucratic or legalistic; they would potentially have significant health and economic consequences for girls, women, families and communities.
The government's proposal received over 100,000 comments. Before finalizing any new rules, the Department of Education must review and respond to these comments. HealthyWomen, with many other organizations and individuals, urged that the proposal be withdrawn, while also pointing out the many problems with the proposed changes.
The comment period for the proposed rule has closed. However, it is possible that rather than finalize or withdraw the proposed rule, the Department of Education will reissue a revised proposal for additional comment. In the meantime, many states are examining their laws because of potential conflicts that could be created between state requirements and any mandates under new Federal Title IX rule. It is also possible that the U.S. Congress will hold hearings or otherwise utilize its oversight authority regarding the proposed rule.
As the leading women's health resource, HealthyWomen educates women and policy makers about women's health issues to promote better health outcomes for women, our families and our communities, and to improve programs and legislation to meet health care needs.