Candice Jackson
Candice Jackson

On the eve of potentially pivotal meetings Thursday about campus sexual assault with advocates for both victims and the accused, the woman who organized the listening sessions is facing intense scrutiny for saying in an interview that most sexual assault accusations on college campuses come after drunken hookups and bad breakups.

Candice Jackson, the acting assistant secretary for civil rights at the Education Department, made the comments in a New York Times story published Wednesday that prompted backlash from critics who said the comments perpetuated harmful stereotypes of sexual assault victims.

Many investigations don’t reveal “that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman,” Jackson, whose office tracks Title IX violations, told the Times.

“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,’ ” Jackson said.

Title IX, part of the Educational Amendments of 1972, bars sexual discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.

After backlash from victims’ advocates, Jackson later issued an apology.

“What I said was flippant, and I am sorry,” she said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. “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.”

She said in the statement that she is a rape survivor and “would never seek to diminish anyone’s experience.”

“My words in the New York Times poorly characterized the conversations I’ve had with countless groups of advocates,” Jackson continued.

Earlier this week, Jackson’s boss, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, also came under fire when reports said that she had invited to the listening sessions men’s rights organizations that defend accused students but that have also been characterized as misogynistic. Students who say they’ve been falsely accused of assault as well as sexual assault survivors have also been invited to the sessions.

DeVos and the Trump administration plan to reshape Obama-era directives about handling sexual assault investigations at college campuses nationwide.

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SOURCE: Katie Mettler 
The Washington Post

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