United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has ignored requests to meet with campus assault survivors and advocates since taking the job. Now, DeVos has finally agreed to a 90-minute roundtable discussion with these groups. She's also agreed to meet with men's rights organizations, who are expressly opposed to reforming policies about sexual assault and often use factually incorrect information to support their overtly misogynistic claims.
Those on the left fear that DeVos's plan is to ultimately weaken Title IX protections for sexual assault survivors.
End Rape on Campus, SurvJustice, National Women’s Law Center, Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Transgender Equality, and Girls INC are a few of the organizations DeVos plans to meet with, according to Jezebel. The meeting will be closed-door.
This will be immediately followed by a meeting in which DeVos will convene with a plethora of men's rights advocates including the National Coalition for Men and SAVE: Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, along with many men who claim they are the victims of false accusations made by women. The Southern Poverty Law center has previously described SAVE as a group whose aim is “to roll back services for victims of domestic abuse and penalties for their tormentors, while working to return the focus to the ‘true victims of abuse’—the falsely accused.” Meanwhile, The National Coalition for Men has supported stripping laws that protect LGBTQ individuals, has sued women's organizations for discriminating against men, and has placed blame on victims of domestic abuse. Democratic Senator Bob Casey of Pennyslvania called DeVos's inclusion of one of the men's rights group "a slap in the face to the victims of campus sexual assault." According to BuzzFeed, Senator Patty Murray of Washington wrote in a letter that she feared DeVos was moving toward changing the department’s approach to the gender equity law Title IX “in a way that will undermine the rights of sexual assault survivors."
Requests for comments on the meetings were not returned.
“This administration has given a number of indications that they are looking into shredding prior Title IX enforcement guidance and this is yet another bad sign for the enforcement of Title IX, that they’re only spending 90 minutes with survivors and nearly two times as much time with folks who are very much concerned about the wrongfully accused,” said Jess Davidson, managing director of End Rape on Campus.
“It is hard to feel like that is a balanced conversation geared towards figuring out the best way to keep students learning, and instead feels like they’ve already made up their minds to betray survivors,” said Alexandra Brodsky, Skadden Fellow at the National Women’s Law Center. “I hope that I’m wrong. I really hope that this is an honest and fruitful exchange.”
Earlier this week, Teen Vogue published an open letter signed by 114 sexual assult survivors addressed to Betsy DeVos: "Survivors simply want the protections to remain in schools that the federal government and courts have institutionalized over the last four decades. " than one that withdraws protections from vulnerable students — especially coming from the administration of a man who has been repeatedly accused of committing sexual violence himself," reads the letter.
Similarly, a A Department of Education official named Candice Jackson has apologized after falsely asserting that "90%" of sexual assault accusations on college campuses "fall into the category of 'we were both drunk,'" during an interview this week. A 2015 study published in the journal Violence Against Women found that — in reality — the prevalence of false allegations of sexual assault falls between 2% and 10%.
It is unclear what the result of DeVos's meeting will be.
[Photo: Getty Images]