As Besty DeVos prepares to meet with sexual assault advocacy groups — an approach criticized for its planned meetings with those accused of rape — a top official at the Department of Education suggested "90 percent" of sexual assault allegations on college campuses, "fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,'" in an interview.
Candice E. Jackson, the head of the Department's Office for Civil Rights, told the New York Times that, in most sexual assault cases, there is "not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman," reducing these assertions to "‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.'”
However, Jackson's comments fly in the face of conventional and educated understandings of what remains a crisis on college campuses. A 2015 study published by the journal Violence Against Women established false accusations account for between two and ten percent, a statistic far smaller than her claim.
On Wednesday, Jackson later apologized for her remarks in a statement. "As a survivor of rape myself, I would never seek to diminish anyone’s experience," she said. "My words in the New York Times poorly characterized the conversations I’ve had with countless groups of advocates. What I said was flippant, and I am sorry. All sexual harassment and sexual assault must be taken seriously—which has always been my position and will always be the position of this Department."
The apology was not enough for some. Dem. Senator Patty Murray of Washington condemned Jackson in a letter obtained by Buzzfeed, where she demanded DeVos and the DOE take sexual assault more seriously. "I am deeply disturbed by this message coming from the person you have selected to lead OCR," Murray wrote. "At the least, this suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of campus sexual assault and suggests that OCR is not prepared to take accounts from survivors seriously."
Murray's comments are aimed at the series of meetings DeVos will hold on Thursday with sexual assault advocacy groups, including men's rights groups such the National Coalition for Men Carolinas. This branch of the NCFM claims they are committed to addressing the "very real and damaging war on men" waged through sexual assault accusations, all while blaming the media and "radical feminists" for making them easy targets.
Jess Davidson, the managing director of the group End Rape on Campus, has raised concerns over the advocacy groups' meetings with Devos because they seem to have prioritized the lives of those accused, rather than the victims. “When you look at the amount of students who are going to be assaulted in college versus the amount of students who are going to be wrongfully accused, significantly more students fall into the first category," Davidson told Time.