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Candice Jackson, assistant secretary for civil rights at the Education Department (Twitter).

Under fire

Trump administration official ‘sorry’ for casting doubt on ‘90 percent’ of campus sexual assault claims

By WITW Staff on July 13, 2017

Acting assistant secretary for civil rights at the Education Department Candice Jackson has apologized for comments made to The New York Times in which she claimed that “90 percent” of sexual assault claims filed on college campuses stem from drunken hookups and bad breakups in which victims decided “six months later” that they had been raped. In the wake of her controversial comments, Jackson had come under fire from critics who accused her of victim-blaming and promoting harmful stereotypes of sexual assault victims. But in a statement made to The Associated Press, Jackson said that her seemingly hostile attitude to sexual assault victims should not be taken to mean that she does not take sexual assault “seriously.”

“What I said was flippant, and I am sorry,” said Jackson. “All sexual harassment and sexual assault must be taken seriously — which has always been my position.” In the statement, she added that she herself is a rape survivor and that her comments weren’t meant “to diminish anyone’s experience.”

Jackson had been responsible for organizing Thursday’s listening sessions about the impact of the Education Department’s Title IX sexual assault guidance, as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos continues to push for a reconsideration of guidance issued by the Obama administration in 2011 that called for education officials to consider a “preponderance of evidence” standard rather than a “clear and convincing” evidence standard during campus judicial proceedings. Victims’ advocates had celebrated the move because it made it easier for students accused of sexual assault to be found responsible during campus adjudications. Lawyers for the accused, however, and well-respected politically neutral legal scholars had questioned whether the directive unfairly tilted the campus adjudication process in favor of victims.

There are strong signs that DeVos and Jackson plan to do whatever possible to roll back the Obama era Title IX guidance. Devos’ family foundation has previously donated to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil liberties group known for disputing the 2011 guidelines and representing students accused of sexual assault. Jackson, meanwhile, is best known as the author of 2005 book Their Lives: Women Targeted by the Clinton Machine, which shares the stories of women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct. Despite her apparent desire to protect sexual assault victims of men in power, Jackson, an outspoken opponent of feminism, has also called women who accused Donald Trump of sexual violence “fake victims” who lie for “political gain.” In an interview with the Times, Jackson said she had received hundreds of letters from mostly male college students who had been accused of rape or sexual assault, and suggested that the campus adjudication process was “weighted in favor of a plaintiff.”

Jess Davidson, the managing director of the group End Rape on Campus, told Time magazine that the current system has made campus tribunals more fair, not less, because of the difficulty of definitively proving accusations and because the number of students who face sexual assault vastly outnumbers the number of those facing false sexual assault accusations. Jackson’s comments, she added, “put a pit in my stomach” because they came from the “person who is nationally in charge of investigating all these cases.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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