Currently, the Department of Education is looking to re-examine policies outlined by former President Barack Obama's administration regarding how colleges and universities handle sexual assault allegations. To make matters worse, one senior official within the department has stirred up significant controversy for suggesting 90 percent of campus rape allegations aren't real.
Head of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights Candice E. Jackson told the New York Times she'd facilitated meetings between Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and various university officials, accused students, alleged survivors, and advocates working on both sides of the issue. Apparently, she included advocates of the accused because she believed 90 percent of accusations weren't accurate.
Jackson told the Times she felt investigations conducted under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, which defines sexual harassment and violence as a form of gender discrimination, had gone "deeply awry." Jackson continued:
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."
Jackson told the Times she saw "a red flag that something's not quite right" and argued investigative processes conducted under Obama's policies were not "fairly balanced between the accusing victim and the accused student." According to Jackson, many investigations don't include "even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman." Jackson, whom the Times reported was a survivor of sexual assault, reportedly argued accused students had, in many instances, been labeled rapists "when the facts just don't back that up."
In sharp contrast to Jackson's remarks, an analysis on a decade of reported sexual assault cases conducted in 2010 concluded that only 2 to 10 percent of sexual assault allegations turned out to be false.
Sen. Pat Murray sent a letter to DeVos in which she criticized Jackson's comments and voiced her concerns regarding potential changes to Department of Education guidelines on Title IX compliance.
"I am deeply disturbed by this message coming from the person you have selected to lead OCR," the Democratic senator said of Jackson's comments, according to a copy of the letter obtained by BuzzFeed. "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."
Survivor advocacy organizations have also spoken out against Jackson's comments. "That statement put a pit in my stomach when I read it," Managing Director of End Rape on Campus Jess Davidson told Times in a statement. "The statement made it sound like she believes that 90 percent of accusations are false reports."
Jackson has since apologized for her remarks, which she described as "flippant." She clarified her "conclusion was based on feedback from cases involving accused students" and emphasized "all sexual harassment and sexual assault must be taken seriously."
This isn't the first time Jackson has been criticized for her position on sexual assault. In 2016, BuzzFeed reported Jackson characterized the women accusing Donald Trump of sexual assault as "frankly, fake victims" in a Facebook post. It remains unclear if Jackson will face any disciplinary action as a result of her remarks.