Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to Meet With Alleged Rapists About Campus Sexual Assault Policies

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will be meeting with so-called “men’s rights activists” and accused rapists Thursday about campus sexual assault policies.

The Department of Education has reached out to groups such as the National Coalition for Men (NCFM) and Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE), two groups that have advocated for the rights and safety of accused rapists. Harry Crouch, president of NCFM, suggested that in the case of sexual and domestic assaults that  “often women initiates the violence herself.” Joseph Roberts of SAVE–designated by the Southern Policy Law Center as an organization “promoting misogyny”–lobbied Congress members against the “military’s sexual assault witch hunt.”

Women’s rights groups fighting against the rescinding of the Dear Colleague Letter such as End Rape on Campus (EROC) and Know Your IX have been pushing for involvement in DeVos’ decision-making. Know Your IX, an organization that helps inform students and survivors of their rights on campus, have been tweeting with the hashtag #DearBetsy and encouraging survivors of sexual assault to share their stories using it as well.

Since the Obama Administration issued its Dear Colleague Letter’ instructing college campuses to address sexual assault allegations within their Title IX framework or face a loss of federal funding, campus rape culture has become a major issue of concern to the Department of Education, and hundreds of college campuses have faced Title IX lawsuits from survivors of sexual violence who were failed by institutional policies.

DeVos has been silent about her intentions to either uphold, rescind or replace the letter–but in a recent interview, Candice Jackson, head of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, stated that she believes that most of the investigations “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 that the requirements put in place by the Letter were too cumbersome for the department.

Rape culture is upheld by the very myths and phrases told Jackson espoused in her interview: that sexual assault if a woman is intoxicated is consensual, or that women “cry rape” because they regret having sex. And the groups and officials DeVos is talking with are arguing on behalf of the attackers, rather than the victims, justifying the use of force as a way to exert hyper-masculine dominance. They are using victim-blaming to support their cause, and tell the stories of ruined colleges experiences of those accused–rather than the ruined lives of those who were raped.

“While it is appropriate to discuss and improve due process protections on campus,” Laura Dunn, founder of the non-profit SurvJustice which helps rape victims get justice in the legal system, told The Independent, “this should not come at the expense of survivors’ rights nor be couched in a mentality that victims are lying about their experiences.”

Research says that less than 10 percent of rapes are falsely reported, whereas 65 percent of committed rapes go unreported due to victims fear of repercussion or lack of safety. We live in a country where 1 in 5 women on college campuses will be raped or sexually assaulted during their time at school. What we need is more, not less, action on this epidemic–and a majority of voters agree. Perhaps DeVos should listen to them.

Joelle Rosenberg is an Editorial Intern at Ms. and a student at Santa Monica College studying Sociology and Women’s studies. She has worked as a volunteer for Planned Parenthood and dedicated much time and effort into raising awareness about rape culture and sexual assault in colleges around the United Sates. She enjoys outdoor activities such as backpacking, hiking and rock climbing, as well as exploring L.A.’s food scene and spending time with her cats. You can find her on Facebook or Instagram

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