The head of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, who is also the woman who organized the meeting between campus sexual assault survivors and advocates and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Candice Jackson, apologized Thursday to survivors for borderline rape denial comments she previously made, according to Politico. But she fell short of apologizing for also inviting men’s rights groups that include rape denialists to speak with DeVos regarding Title IX guidance for students, families, and institutions on the topic of sexual assault.
Jackson, an attorney and a sexual assault survivor who, during the election, helped organize meetings between women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault and Donald Trump, an accused rapist and a man who admitted to grabbing women without consent, deeply offended survivors when she told The New York Times, “The accusations [of campus sexual assault] — 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 issued a written apology that said her statement "poorly characterized the conversations I’ve had with countless groups of advocates. What I said was flippant, and I am sorry.”
But her apology was not enough for survivors and advocates. "There’s no way to take it back, unfortunately," Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women's Law Center, told Politico. "It’s been put out there. The only thing they can do now is exercise the leadership and spending a lot of time rejecting the rape myths they propagated this week."
While the meeting between survivors and DeVos reportedly last 15 minutes longer than scheduled, and each woman was afforded an opportunity to share her story, the fact remains that the Education secretary also carved out time to hear the stories of former students who’d been accused of rape who were accompanied by the men’s rights groups the National Coalition for Men and the Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE), an unrepentant group of rape denialists that espouses the belief that rape is a hoax.
"It’s hard to share your story in any environment, but when you hear the sort of rape myths put out there from a department official, they still came and shared their stories,” Graves told Politico regarding the meeting. "The reason they’re willing to come here today is because they’re deeply worried we are going to roll back all the progress we’ve made."