Does Betsy DeVos care more about those accused of rape than its victims?

The education secretary’s policy switch will let schools off the hook, focusing on the ‘victims of the lack of due process’ rather than serial offenders

Protesters at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, where Betsy DeVos delivered a policy address on sexual harassment, rape and assault on 7 September. Photograph: Mike Theiler/Reuters

As she announced the rollback of Obama-era rules on campus sexual assault, education secretary Betsy DeVos seemed at times less like the head of the Department of Education than the department of rape apologists.

“The truth is that the system established by the prior administration has failed too many students,” DeVos said in a speech at George Mason University on Thursday afternoon. “Survivors, victims of a lack of due process and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved.”

It’s notable that the “victims” she seems most worried about aren’t those of sexual assault – they’re “victims of a lack of due process”.

She went on to say: “Too many cases involve students and faculties who’ve faced investigation and punishment simply for speaking their minds.” But she didn’t say that the case she’s abstractly referring to is one in a thousand – or that at the end of it, the professor in question was cleared.

She didn’t talk about the fact that according to US Department of Justice reports, an estimated 19% of college-age women will suffer attempted or completed sexual assault, but that only 12% of those cases ever get reported – or that only between two and 10% of campus sexual assault accusations are actually false, per the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Those aren’t the victims she seems to care about.

Neither did a key lieutenant, Candice Jackson – hired by DeVos in April to head up the department’s civil rights office, which oversees campus assault policy – when she told the New York Times that she thinks a full 90% of sexual assault claims stem from drunken, regretted sex.

She and DeVos aren’t unique in their disproportionate concern for the reputation of the accused over rape victims. Far from it.

When I spoke to Darbi Goodwin, who reported her rape by a high school classmate in 2014, for instance, authority figures repeatedly prioritized the feelings of the accused. “We know him and he would never do something like that,” she recalled them saying of the young man in question.

It’s also a…

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