Justice

Betsy DeVos Is Talking to Men's Rights Groups to Draft New College Rape Policies

Before making a big decision about the DOE’s campus rape policy, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will meet with controversial groups who advocate for those accused of sexual misconduct.

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In addition to meeting with victims' advocates regarding her upcoming decision about whether to keep Obama-era guidelines meant to protect victims of sexual assault, Politico reports that DeVos is meeting with Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, Families Advocating for Campus Equality, and the National Coalition for Men.

These groups generally promote the idea that men accused of sexual assault are often falsely accused and unfairly treated.

People on Twitter were outraged that the head of the DOE would meet with these groups.

GQ's Jack Moore gave a breakdown on just some of the groups' troubling positions:

  • Stop Abusive and Violent Environments: The organization released a report in 2013 that said domestic violence laws are undermining civil rights, including the "right to parent one's own children."
  • National Coalition for Men: Harry Crouch, the president of NCFM, defended former NFL star Ray Rice for hitting his wife. “I'm not saying he's a good guy, but if she hadn't aggravated him, she wouldn't have been hit," he said in an 2014 interview with Pacific Standard's Ted Scheinman. "They would say that's blaming the victim. But I don't buy it." In the same interview, Crouch dismissed the idea of "rape culture," and said there is no rape crisis on college campuses. NCFM chapters have also posted the photos of women whose rape cases were dismissed.
  • Families Advocating for Campus Equality: This is a group created by the mother of sons who have been accused of sexual assault. "FACE maintains a list of attorneys experienced in campus sexual assault adjudications, [and] provides advice on how families can extricate their sons from this unimaginable nightmare, and education on the issue of campuses sexual assault disciplinary proceedings," the website states. It also claims that men who are falsely accused of sexual assault experience similar trauma as victims of assault.

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DeVos is considering changing guidelines put in place by President Barack Obama's administration, because critics say the guidelines go too far and infringe on student's due process rights. In 2011, the Obama administration sent guidance that made it easier for colleges to discipline students accused of sexual assault.

Candace E. Jackson, the head of the DOE's Office of Civil Rights Division told The New York Times that reform of the current guidelines is needed because most sexual assault accusations aren't true, and are just drunken encounters or bad breakups, and schools move too quickly to punish the accused.

“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.

The truth is the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported.

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Catherine E. Lhamon, who was the head of the DOE's civil rights office from August 2013 through December 2016, told the Times that contrary to Jackson's claims about overzealous schools, investigations during her time in the department showed “jaw-dropping degrees of noncompliance” in following sexual assault law.

A 2015 survey by the Association of American Universities found that 23 percent of undergraduate women said they had been sexually assaulted while in school, and the reporting rate was low, ranging from 5 to 28 percent. The reporting rate varied depending on the specific type of assault. The most common reasons women didn't report their assaults were that they felt “embarrassed, ashamed or that it would be too emotionally difficult,” and because they “did not think anything would be done about it.” In the broader criminal justice system, the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network says that out of 1000 rapes only 310 are reported to police and only seven lead to a felony conviction.

Victims' advocates worry that a roll back of the Obama-era guidelines will advance myths about sexual assault and make it harder for sexual assault victims to get justice.

“We took for granted the fact that the White House and the Department of Education supported accepting and advancing these rights, and we can’t take that for granted anymore,” Michele Dauber, a professor at Stanford University Law School told the Times. “There is going to be a fight.”

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