The top Department of Education civil rights official, Candice Jackson, claimed yesterday that “90 percent” of sexual violence accusations “fall into the category of, ‘We were both drunk, 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.'” This warns us of the direction of the department under Betsy DeVos: picking up the constant false statements of misogynist “men’s rights activists” and antifeminist women like Christina Hoff Sommers to deny the prevalence of rape.
Such groups often claim that sexism is a thing of the past, as DeVos herself framed universities’ mishandling of sexual assault complaints as something we’ve passed beyond. And, in inviting both sexual violence advocates and male supremacists to weigh in, DeVos enters into a false equivalency, legitimizing actors that deal in lies and misogynist rhetoric. Harry Crouch, president of one of the invited groups, the National Coalition for Men, has blamed victims of domestic violence for “aggravat[ing]” their abusers, declaring, “They would say that’s blaming the victim. But I don’t buy it.” These groups are not seeking a fair process for all, but to convince people against the evidence that false allegations are the real epidemic–rather than admitting that 90% of sexual violence accusations are accurate, yet rarely result in serious consequences for the perpetrator, and represent only a fraction of the actual assaults occurring.
Jackson authored “Their Lives: Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine” (2005), in which she accused Hillary Rodham Clinton of complicity in harassing women who reported sexual affairs or sexual violence by her husband, former president Bill Clinton. However, her failure to demonstrate similar empathy and trust for women reporting being sexually harassed or assaulted by President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign, followed by this latest flippant and false statement accusing young women of lying about rape to wreak petty revenge, proves that she only takes sexual violence seriously when it serves the right-wing agenda. As Sofie Karasek, director of education and co-founder at End Rape on Campus, commented during the campaign, “for her not to believe survivors when it’s politically expedient, that raises the question of how committed you are to this issue.”
The National Women’s Law Center and Know Your IX, now a project of Advocates for Youth, were among the anti-rape groups invited by DeVos and are fighting to end rape culture and sexual violence on campuses. Those who want to join the fight can visit their websites, tweet with the #DearBetsy campaign, and students and alumni can pressure their own college and university presidents to join Brooklyn College President Michelle J. Anderson in speaking out in favor of Title IX enforcement.