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Unacceptable, Betsy DeVos: Stand with survivors of sexual assault

Unacceptable

Under Betsy DeVos’ Department of Education (DOE), campus sexual assault survivors are on their own.

DeVos recently met with misogynistic “men’s rights groups” and rape deniers about weakening Title IX protections for campus sexual assault survivors.1 And that’s not all. DeVos has also appointed Candice Jackson – an anti-feminist activist who publicly doubts women who report sexual assault – as acting head of the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights. This is beyond appalling.2

We cannot remain silent while DeVos undermines policies that protect students from discrimination and violence, empowers rape deniers and appoints anti-feminist activists to run the DOE’s investigations of schools that fail to properly handle reports of sexual assault. We must raise a massive public outcry to demand that DeVos do her job, immediately fire Candice Jackson and publicly commit to protecting all students from hate.

Tell Betsy DeVos: Fire Candice Jackson and publicly commit to protecting all students from discrimination, hate and violence.

DeVos has already refused to say whether she will stand up for LGBTQ students. Now it seems she is turning her back on sexual assault survivors as well. DeVos devoted one third of her summit on Title IX to “men’s rights groups.” These groups elevate a false narrative that most sexual assault charges are false, promote victim-blaming, and attempt to harass and intimidate assault survivors to get them to drop their cases.3

At around the same time of DeVos’ summit with “men’s rights groups,” Jackson, the acting head of the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights, told reporters from the New York Times that:

“90 percent of sexual assault 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.’”4

This is not the first time Jackson has made such appalling statements. She is a long-time anti-feminist activist who has almost no experience with civil rights law. She once claimed she faced discrimination because she was white.5 She has also made many victim-blaming statements over the years and has shown a deeply troubling skepticism of women who report sexual violence.6

Jackson is completely unqualified to run the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights. A top DOE official in charge of enforcing policies to protect students from discrimination and violence should never trivialize sexual assault or discourage students from reporting it.

Tell Betsy DeVos: Fire Candice Jackson and publicly commit to protecting all students from discrimination, hate and violence.

One in five women are sexually assaulted in college.7 Schools are responsible for responding to student reports of sexual violence, but many universities have a terrible record of sweeping sexual assault cases under the rug to protect their bottom lines.8 When schools do not do their jobs, many survivors end up suing educational institutions and must endure drawn out and sometimes humiliating investigations just to get basic accommodations like class schedule changes and mental health coverage.9

In the face of this epidemic, the Obama administration issued a 2011 Dear Colleague Letter to clarify how Title IX, which mandates gender equality in education, should be used to fight campus sexual assault.10 The guidance makes it easier for students to report sexual violence to their institution. It also requires schools and universities to handle reports quickly and fairly and provide accommodations for survivors so they do not face their assailants daily in their dorms and classrooms.11,12

According to a recent Title IX DOE report, there are 344 open sexual violence investigations at 242 postsecondary schools on the books right now.13 Title IX will only protect students from hate and violence if DeVos makes sure that schools enforce it. Speak out now to demand that she stand up for sexual assault survivors.

Thank you for your activism.

References:

  1. Casey Quinlan, “Betsy DeVos echoes ‘men’s rights’ activists on campus rape,” ThinkProgress, July 14, 2017.
  2. Laura Bassett, “Betsy DeVos Is Under Fire For Scaling Back Campus Rape Investigations,” HuffPost, July 6, 2017.
  3. Kaitlin Menza, “Betsy DeVos’ Campus Rape Talks with Men’s Rights Groups Are a Travesty,” SELF, July 14, 2017.
  4. Kellman and Feldman, “Education Department Official Apologizes for ‘Flippant’ Sexual Assault Remarks – Again,” TIME, July 13, 2017.
  5. Annie Waldman, “DeVos Pick to Head Civil Rights Office Once Said She Faced Discrimination for Being White,” ProPublica, April 14, 2017.
  6. Bassett, “Betsy DeVos Is Under Fire For Scaling Back Campus Rape Investigations.”
  7. Michelle J. Anderson, “I’m a college president. Betsy DeVos should help me deal with campus sexual assault.” The Washington Post, July 13, 2017.
  8. Laurie Kellman and Carole Feldman, “Education Department Official Apologizes for ‘Flippant’ Sexual Assault Remarks – Again.”
  9. Teen Vogue, “Betsy DeVos, This is What Sexual Assault Survivors Want to Know: ‘Who are you here to serve?’” July 12, 2017.
  10. Jeannie Suk Gersen, “The Trump Administration’s Fraught Attempt To Address Campus Sexual Assault,” The New Yorker, July 15, 2017.
  11. Teen Vogue, “Betsy DeVos, This is What Sexual Assault Survivors Want to Know: ‘Who are you here to serve?’”
  12. Andrew Kreighbaum, “DeVos Hints at Changes in Title IX Enforcement,” Inside Higher Ed, July 14, 2017.
  13. Kellman and Feldman, “Education Department Official Apologizes for ‘Flippant’ Sexual Assault Remarks – Again.”