A top official in President Donald Trump's Education Department said she believes that nine out of 10 sexual assault cases can be summarized by "we were both drunk."
On Thursday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is meeting with various advocates and university officials as part of efforts to review former President Barack Obama's policies on how colleges handle sexual assault.
Candice E. Jackson, who heads the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, organized the talks because she believes that people accused of sexual are often unfairly targeted and labeled "rapists" by universities in their rush to support victims. The meeting will give equal time to survivors and to "men's rights" activists. She made the controversial comments about rape in an interview with The New York Times to preview the meeting.
"[Usually, there's] not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman," Jackson said. "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.'"
Title IX is a 1972 act that prohibits discrimination based on gender in educational institutions and was, under Obama, often used by colleges to look into alleged instances of sexual assault.
While studies have found that one in every five women are sexually assaulted in college, in more than 90% of cases, they don't report it to the school, often because of fear of retaliation or that it won't resolve anything.
The statement received sharp criticism from advocates against campus sexual assault, who argue that focusing solely on the rights of the accused ignored that only 2% to 10% of sexual assault allegations tend to be false.
"That statement put a pit in my stomach when I read it," Jess Davidson, managing director of End Rape on Campus, told TIME. "The statement made it sound like she believes that 90% of accusations are false reports."
Buzzfeed reported that two Democratic senators have sent letters to DeVos, saying Jackson's comments point to a larger problem that her department "is not prepared to take accounts from survivors seriously," and that inviting men's rights groups to the meeting was "a slap in the face to the victims of campus sexual assault."
Jackson later apologized for her comment, saying that her words were "flippant" and not meant to offend survivors of sexual assault. "All sexual harassment and sexual assault must be taken seriously," she said in a statement.
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