The Department of Education’s civil rights chief has apologized after saying 90 percent of campus sexual assault claims “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk’” and that the rights of the accused are typically ignored.
“What I said was flippant, and I am sorry,” Candice Jackson, head of the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights, said in a statement Wednesday, July 12. “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.”
Jackson’s comments came during an interview with The New York Times this week that preceded a series of meetings between contested Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and several advocacy groups to discuss the growing issue, according to TIME magazine. She was quoted in the paper on Wednesday, arguing that rules imposed by former President Barack Obama were problematic and resulted in false accusations under the federal laws known as Title IX (which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in education).
In most investigations, Jackson told The New York Times, there’s “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.”
“Rather, the accusations — 90 percent of them — 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,’” she added.
The day after Jackson’s interview, DeVos met with sexual assault survivors, those who have been accused of sexual assault, school administrators and parents to decide if and how the federal government would handle such cases going forward, the Associated Press reported.
Advocates for sexual assault survivors like Jess Davidson, managing director of the group End Rape on Campus, expressed concern that the DeVos meetings on Thursday were just precursor to efforts to scale back the Obama-era policies, which consider sexual assault as sex discrimination at Title IX schools.
“When you look at the amount of students who are going to be assaulted in college vs. the amount of students who are going to be wrongfully accused, significantly more students fall into the first category,” Davidson told TIME.
However, those who say they’ve been falsely accused are ready to see the rules go, arguing that Title IX policies typically favor those alleging sexual assault.
In her apology statement, Jackson revealed she herself was a rape survivor.
“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.”