In addition to survivors’ groups and educational institutions, DeVos met with “men’s rights” organizations, including the National Coalition for Men (NCFM), as well as groups that speak out on behalf of the accused, including Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE) and Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE).
Though the secretary refused to say whether the administration wants to amend directives to colleges and universities, survivors’ advocates worry that DeVos’ engagement with these controversial groups — which opponents have dubbed insensitive to victims — signals a possible willingness to shift the process to the advantage of alleged perpetrators by rolling back Obama-era guidance directing schools to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof, rather than the higher “clear and convincing” standard, during Title IX sexual assault violence investigations.
“She’s meeting with groups and individuals today who believe that sexual assault is some sort of feminist plot to hurt men,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, who joined other like-minded individuals gathered outside the Department clamoring to keep the focus on survivors.
Natalie Green, online communications coordinator with women’s right group UltraViolet, tells ABC News, “In all honesty, we think she should be listening to the survivors first and foremost, not rape apologists.”
And Annie Clark, executive director and co-founder of End Rape on Campus, said, “The evidentiary standard in the criminal justice system is higher, and should be, than on campus because the penalties are different.”
Asked about the aforementioned concerns, DeVos told reporters at the Department of Education, “today was a time to listen.”
“No student should be the victim of sexual assault,” DeVos said. “No student should feel unsafe … and no students should feel like the scales are tipped against him or her.”
According to NCFM, FACE and SAVE, who all fight what they claim are false accusations, accused rapists should be afforded stronger due process by schools investigating allegations of sexual violence. Though difficult to measure, researchers from Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts reported that their findings — published in the Journal of Violence Against Women — in conjunction with other studies, “indicate that the prevalence of false allegations is between 2 percent and 10 percent.”
“It was clear that their stories are not often told, and there are lives that have been ruined and lives that have been lost in the process,” DeVos said of these groups representing people they believe were wrongfully accused.
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SOURCE: ABC News, Erin Dooley, Janet Weinstein and Meridith McGraw