After several days of controversy surrounding meetings with stakeholders in the campus sexual assault debate, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she wants to help both victims of assault and those who have been falsely accused of rape. It was a striking departure from the rhetoric of the Obama administration, which has focused primarily on survivors, BuzzFeed News reports. DeVos strongly suggested that she was planning to overhaul the way that the government deals with campus sexual assault, calling the current system of enforcing Title IX broken. “We need to get this right, we need to protect all students, and we need to do this quickly,” DeVos said.
DeVos angered advocates for victims of sexual assault by agreeing to meet with members of a men’s rights group, which argues that men accused of assault are treated unfairly by colleges under the Obama administration’s Title IX guidance. The National Coalition for Men has a history of intimidating victims by publishing the identities of women who they say made false accusations. DeVos said the stories of those falsely accused of rape “are not often told,” adding that in her meetings, “I saw a lot of pain today.” Accused students and their attorneys, who have long insisted the system is failing them, said the fact that DeVos welcomed them to the table was remarkable. DeVos’s civil rights chief, Candice Jackson, stirred outrage when she told the New York Times that “90 percent” of accusations “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.” Democratic senators called the remarks “deeply disturbing.” Jackson, herself a sexual assault survivor, apologized, saying her words were “flippant.”