Education Official Apologizes After Saying Most Campus Assault Accusations Are Drunken Hookups Gone Wrong

Students at Columbia University show their support for Emma Sulkowicz, who said she was raped in her dorm room on campus. Photo: Getty Images

Yesterday news broke that the Department of Education reached out to various men’s-rights groups to discuss Title IX, and on Wednesday a New York Times report confirmed that, under President Trump, the department is moving in a new direction when it comes to addressing and litigating sexual assault on campus.

Candice Jackson, who’s in charge of the department’s Office for Civil Rights, spoke to the Times about her plans for the DOE and, according to the paper, “made clear that she believes investigations under the 1972 law known as Title IX have gone deeply awry.”

A sexual-assault survivor herself, Jackson said that Title IX cases focus disproportionately on the rights of the victim while ignoring the rights of the accused. In most cases, she said, there’s “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.” She added that they’ve been labeled rapists “when the facts just don’t back that up.” She went on:

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.”

While the current method for handling campus sexual assault may be flawed, Jackson’s remarks led many to question whether she’ll keep things like the Obama administration’s Dear Colleague letter — which warned schools they could lose federal funding if they didn’t comply with Title IX — in place. As the Times notes, the letter instructed colleges to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard in deciding whether a sexual assault had taken place. Now, advocates for the falsely accused are hoping Jackson will adopt the “clear and convincing” standard, which is harder for victims to meet.

Fatima Goss Graves, the president of the National Women’s Law Center, said Jackson’s stance makes her “worried that the department will turn into apologists for the sort of violence that happens on campus.”

Following the uproar over her remarks, Jackson issued an apology on Wednesday night.

“As a survivor of rape myself, I would never seek to diminish anyone’s experience,” she said. “My words in the New York Times poorly characterized the conversations I’ve had with countless groups of advocates … All sexual harassment and sexual assault must be taken seriously — which has always been my position and will always be the position of this Department.”

This post was updated to include Jackson’s apology.

Official: Most Assault Accusations Are Hookups Gone Wrong