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Hillary Clinton's Democratic National Convention focused heavily on many issues that are central to women: Abortion, women's health, family and parental leave and, of course, nominating a woman for president.

The party's approach to abortion was particularly brave, with NARAL president Ilyse Hogue becoming the first person to share the story of her abortion at a political convention.

But there was one issue of vital importance to millions of young American women that felt curiously absent from the convention floor: campus sexual assaults.

The Obama administration declared in 2011 that universities must investigate sexual assaults under the rubric of Title IX, the federal statute prohibiting gender discrimination in education, or risk losing federal funds. Since then, over 300 schools have been investigated for their sexual assault policies.

Clinton’s website, while not mentioning Title IX in particular, praises the Obama administration for shining “a light on campus sexual assault.” Clinton proposes a plan with “three core principles” to reduce campus assault: “Comprehensive support to survivors, [ensuring] a fair process for all, and increasing prevention efforts.”

Yet the words "Title IX" were mentioned only once at the DNC, in a video by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “We made a difference for millions of people in our country, related the effort on the passage of Title IX, which opened doors to women by eliminating sex discrimination in education,” the narrator said. That was it. Clinton did not mention the issue in her acceptance speech on Thursday.


On the campaign trail, Clinton has not shied away from talking about campus sexual assault, making its absence in her speech stand out. After the letter by the unnamed Stanford rape victim went viral and made headlines across the country, Clinton said the survivor "showed great courage" in coming forward.

"What I’ve heard about this case is deeply concerning," she said in June. "It is clear campus sexual assault continues to be a serious problem. And I've said before and I will continue to say it is not enough to condemn it. We must find ways to end it."


At the DNC, the Stanford rape case was mentioned during a video tribute to Joe Biden, to highlight how he wrote a letter to the victim. Biden did not mention the issue in his speech.

Perhaps one reason for the muted approach to the subject at the DNC is that, in the five years since the Obama’s administration’s letter that announced the policy change on Title IX and assaults, Title IX investigations have become controversial on all sides. There are now 260 open investigations into universities for mishandling sexual assault reports, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Another 50 cases have been resolved. Yet, as Diana Moskovitz reported in an article in Deadspin earlier this month, the sweeping policy overhaul contained "no concrete rules as to how a typical investigation and hearing should work." As a result, she wrote, "universities created systems that manage to come across as unfair to both the accuser and the accused, giving article after article on Title IX a familiar ending—all involved hate the results."


Sexual assault more broadly did warrant a few mentions at the DNC. Lena Dunham briefly mentioned being a sexual assault survivor in her speech on Wednesday night, and Wisconsin congresswoman Gwen Moore said Thursday that "too many women have experienced sexual violence and abuse. And I'm one of them. But we are not victims."

Even so, it's a shame that an issue that is so important, and so often swept under the rug, was not given a more high-profile airing by the Democrats this week.

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