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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219


For media inquiries only, contact:  
Lara Sisselman, Press Secretary
Phone: (804) 786-1022 
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



~ Attorney General Herring had previously urged Sec. DeVos to maintain DOE's commitment, consult with survivors and AGs on any policy changes ~


RICHMOND (September 7, 2017) - Attorney General Mark R. Herring today urged U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to maintain the Department of Education's level of commitment to combating campus sexual violence and ensuring justice for survivors in any re-write of the Department's guidance on campus sexual violence. During an event in Virginia this morning, Sec. DeVos announced that she intends to begin the process of rewriting guidelines dealing with campus sexual violence.


"Our students and schools count on the Department of Education to be a partner in ensuring our campuses are safe, welcoming learning environments for everyone, but today there are no doubt thousands of survivors and young people who are rightfully concerned about what this re-write will mean for them, their safety, and their pursuit of justice following an act of sexual violence," said Attorney General Herring. "As I wrote Secretary DeVos in July, my colleagues and I would welcome the opportunity to share our experience and expertise during this process, so long as we are working towards a system that meets the true needs of our students and campus communities. It is critical that the voice of survivors is heard and their needs are kept central to the mission, and Secretary DeVos must be very wary of those who perpetuate an antiquated and unacceptable belief that survivors simply fabricate claims of sexual violence with regularity.


"I'm proud of the work Governor McAuliffe, our colleges and universities, and I have done in Virginia to prevent campus sexual violence, ensure just and fair outcomes, and turn the page on a time when this crime was not treated with the seriousness it deserves. A new generation of students, administrators, university leaders, and allies have made their voices heard and rightly demanded that we do better. We will not give up our hard-won progress."


Studies show that incidents of sexual assault on college campuses are widespread. The U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics found that, on average, 20.5 percent of college women had experienced sexual assault since entering college, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in five women experienced sexual assault in their lifetimes. Moreover, the vast majority of these incidents go unreported.


In July, Attorney General Herring and 19 of his fellow state attorneys general wrote to Sec. DeVos urging her to maintain the Department of Education's commitment to preventing campus sexual violence, and to engage attorneys general in the process if she wanted to make changes or improvements to the system. The letter was prompted by reports that the Department was planning to step back from its recent work to help universities prevent and respond appropriately to reports of sexual violence.


Attorney General Herring worked with Virginia's colleges and universities, victim advocates, students and law enforcement to improve the way the Commonwealth works to prevent and respond to sexual violence while chairing Gov. McAuliffe's Task Force on Combating Campus Sexual Violence, which spent more than six months developing policy recommendations in five areas:

  • Engaging Our Campuses and Communities in Comprehensive Prevention
  • Minimizing Barriers to Reporting
  • Cultivating a Coordinated and Trauma-Informed Response:
  • Sustaining and Improving Campus Policies and Ensuring Compliance
  • Institutionalizing the Work of the Task Force and Fostering Ongoing Collaborations

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