These Democratic Senators Are Blasting Betsy DeVos For Her Approach To Campus Rape – BuzzFeed News
A top Democratic senator accused Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday of “outright neglecting” her department’s civil rights duties, while another blasted DeVos for planning to meet with a fringe group that says false rape reports are part of a “war” being waged on men.
Two letters, one obtained exclusively by BuzzFeed News, were sent to DeVos on the eve of Thursday’s meetings between the Education Department and organizations representing victims of sexual violence, and those accused of it.
Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, criticized DeVos in her letter for steps the US Department of Education has taken under the Trump administration, such as narrowing the scope of campus sexual assault investigations. Murray said she feared DeVos was moving toward changing the department’s approach to the gender equity law Title IX “in a way that will undermine the rights of sexual assault survivors.”
In her letter, Murray also took aim at comments made by Candice Jackson, the acting head of the department’s Office for Civil Rights, which investigates how schools comply with Title IX. Jackson told the New York Times that 90% of campus rape 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.'”
“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.”
Jackson, a rape survivor herself, later apologized in a statement Wednesday for her remarks to the Times: “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.”
On Thursday, DeVos will hold a series of meetings with various groups on how schools handle sexual violence, broken up into three 90 minute sessions. One will feature groups representing rape victims, another will include groups that work with students accused of assault, and a third will involve educational groups, attorneys, and lobbyists.
Earlier Wednesday, Sen. Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, called DeVos’s inclusion of a men’s rights group, the National Coalition for Men Carolinas, in her meetings “a slap in the face to the victims of campus sexual assault.”
The coalition is a branch of the National Coalition for Men, which has referred to rape survivor advocates as “anti-male,” and last week it called Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, a “misandrist” on Twitter. “We are dedicated to bringing attention to the very real and damaging war on men that is being waged in classrooms, in the media, in our courts, on college campuses, in the workplace, even in places of worship,” the group says on its website.
The Education Department said that the men’s rights group will participate in a meeting for “Students who have been falsely accused and disciplined under Title IX,” and is bringing two students and two parents. The group has also posted photos of women it believes made false rape accusations, and suggested half of all sexual assault reports are lies.
“It is disturbing that the Department of Education would place these radical groups on the same level as those working tirelessly to confront the crisis of sexual assault on our campuses,” Casey wrote in his letter.