DOE civil rights head apologizes for comments on sexual assault

The Education Department’s top civil rights official has apologized for her characterization that 90 percent of campus sexual assault accusations investigated by the federal government under Title IX stem from drunken regret or the fallout of a broken romance.

Candice Jackson, the acting assistant secretary for the DOE’s Office of Civil Rights, said in a Wednesday New York Times article that, “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 apologized for her comments in a late Wednesday statement from the DOE, calling them “flippant.”

“As a survivor of rape myself, I would never seek to diminish anyone’s experience,” Jackson 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.”

Sexual assault survivors and advocates have blasted Jackson for the comments. The Senate’s assistant minority leader, Patty Murray, D-Wash., slammed Jackson’s comments in a Wednesday letter to DOE head Betsy DeVos.

In the letter, first obtained by BuzzFeed News, Murray wrote that Jackson’s views promulgated “damaging misinformation about sexual violence.”

Murray, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Health Committee, said she was “deeply disturbed” by Jackson’s characterization of sexual assault accusations investigated under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act, especially given Jackson’s position as head of DOE’s Office of Civil Rights.

“At the least, this suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of campus sexual assault and suggests that OCR is not prepared to take accounts from survivors seriously,” Murray wrote.

Jackson also said in the Times article that some campus representatives described the public list of universities under Title IX investigation as “a list of shame.” The list, published in 2014 by the DOE, also identifies schools where investigations have been initiated but not yet found proof of sexual misconduct.

Murray expressed concerns that Jackson’s description presented “a clear lack of understanding about the importance of transparency in the Federal government.” The…

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