Sidebar

Sexual Assault Policy and the Trump Administration

Since taking office, President Trump reversed the Department of Education’s initiative to address college sexual assault, proposed gutting the State Department office that works to end gender-based violence abroad, and removed research on sexual violence from the White House website.

But that’s not all.

The Administration halted a Department of Labor effort to reduce domestic abuse, sexual assault, and other workplace violence in the healthcare industry. In 2016, DOL began crafting a rule to prevent workplace violence against nurses, doctors, and other health workers. Shortly after Trump took office, DOL retreated. The agency removed the issue from its annual regulatory plan, signaling it does not intend to take any action within the next year.

SIDEBAR: Incredibly, while halting the rule, DOL admitted in May that “there is growing recognition that workers in healthcare occupations face unique risks and challenges.” That’s an understatement. According to DOL’s own data, in 2013 there were four times as many serious violent workplace injuries in the healthcare industry than in all other industries combined.

—President Trump rolled back limits on forced arbitration for workplace sexual assault and harassment victims. The White House revoked an Obama-era Executive Order that prohibited certain companies from forcing employees into arbitration for workplace sexual assault or harassment disputes.

SIDEBAR: Forced arbitration perpetuates a culture of silence surrounding workplace sexual assault and harassment. “Arbitrations are private proceedings with secret filings and private attorneys, and they often help hide sexual harassment claims, … It can silence victims. They may feel afraid of coming forward because they might think they are the only one, or fear retaliation,” according to the National Women’s Law Center.

—The Administration is threatening to cut millions of dollars in sexual assault prevention funding from cities refusing to comply with President Trump’s immigration policies. DOJ is threatening to block grant funding from the Office on Violence Against Women to Chicago, Cook County, New Orleans, New York City, and Philadelphia. These grants help provide emergency shelters for victims, fund legal representation for those seeking protection orders or child custody, and allow District Attorneys’ offices to establish domestic violence bureaus focused on holding perpetrators of abuse accountable.

SIDEBAR: Multiple federal courts have already ruled that these coercive tactics likely violate the law.

—The White House objected to increased rights for victims of sexual assault in the military. As part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the House originally included a provision to provide sexual assault victims greater access to information through discovery. The White House objected to the new protections (one of only 27 objections the White House raised regarding the 1,330 page bill). Congress subsequently removed the language.

SIDEBAR: The military provides victims of sexual assault with a special counsel who helps them through legal issues that arise out of the assault. Currently, victims counsels have limited access to discovery. Contrary to the White House’s objection, greater access to case information would greatly improve the counsels’ ability to assist victims.

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