Nationwide Vigils to Mark Solidarity With Sexual Assault Survivors

Women have organized protests against Betsy DeVos's new guidance on campus sexual assault since she was named Education Secretary earlier this year. (Photo: SherylINYT/Twitter)

Nationwide Vigils to Mark Solidarity With Sexual Assault Survivors

Capitol Hill vigil targets Education Secretary Betsy Devos's attack on Title IX protections while campus events speak to widespread problem

Women's rights groups planned to gather outside the U.S. Department of Education on Thursday evening in a demonstration of solidarity with survivors of sexual violence, and to protest the Trump administration's rollback of protections against assault on college campuses.

End Rape on Campus, Ultraviolet, Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment (PAVE) and Women's March were among the groups organizing the vigil.

"We have fought to bring the epidemic of campus sexual assault out of the shadows," read the Facebook page for the event. "But most survivors are still suffering in silence. We should double down on our efforts--not turn back."

The action was planned amid widespread public dialogue about sexual harassment and assault in recent weeks. Millions of women have flooded social media feeds this week to share their experiences using the hashtag #MeToo, following mounting allegations of sexual misconduct by film executive Harvey Weinstein and throughout the entertainment industry. Nearly 150 female lawmakers in California also signed a letter this week publicizing harassment they've experienced in state politics.

Earlier on Thursday, the national women's rights group Equal Means Equal announced it is filing a lawsuit to challenge DeVos's recently-issued sexual assault guidance, alleging it violates federal civil rights laws.

"For the Secretary of Education to take such a step is not only unconscionable, not only illegal, it is unconstitutional," a representative from the Equal Means Equal said on Facebook Live while announcing the group's lawsuit. "Just as the cost of getting a job in Hollywood should not be submission to sex with Harvey Weinstein, the cost of a college education should be tuition, not rape."

Tonight's action has been promoted on social media by public figures including actresses Piper Perabo and Alyssa Milano, who popularized the #MeToo campaign:

End Rape on Campus urged supporters who couldn't attend the event in Washington, D.C. to take part in local efforts happening on college campuses throughout the country.

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