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A Giant Step Backwards for Campus Sexual Assault Initiatives

In recent years, colleges and universities have made significant progress in the fight against campus sexual assault. While much work remains to be done to reduce the incidence of sexual assault on campuses, increased reporting requirements and greater protections for students have helped to move us closer to the goal of ending sexual assault completely.

Yet recent comments by Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the head of the agency’s Office of Civil Rights, Candice Jackson, have triggered concerns that all of the progress that we have seen in the movement to end campus sexual assault will be lost. DeVos stated that too many students have been treated unfairly as a result of the Obama administration policies on handling sexual assault. DeVos did say that sexual assault allegations should not be “swept under the rug,” but said that she was deeply concerned about the concerns of the accused, noting that “their stories are not often shared.” The day before, Jackson stated that 90 percent of sexual assault allegations are the result of drunken and regretted sex rather than rape. DeVos devoted an entire session to “wrongful accusations,” where approximately six students told their stories of allegedly being wrongfully accused of sexual assault. Lawmakers have since called for Jackson’s removal, and Jackson has apologized for her remarks.

While false rape accusations do occur, they are rare. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the rate of false sexual assault reports is as low as 2.1 percent. By contrast, the vast majority of sexual assaults are never reported to police. According to RAINN, out of every 1,000 rapes, only 310 are reported to the police. Out of those 310 reports, only 57 alleged perpetrators are arrested. Of those 57 arrests, only 11 cases are referred to prosecutors. Of those 11 cases, only 7 will result in a felony conviction, and only 6 perpetrators will be incarcerated. These numbers demonstrate that it is unlikely that a person will be falsely accused of sexual assault — and that is also unlikely that a rapist in our country will ever spend a day in jail. The problem is not that too many people are falsely accused of rape, but that far too many rapists go unpunished and are never held accountable for their crimes. That is the true travesty of justice.

At Blackburn Center, we believe victims. We believe that the progress made to support victims of campus sexual assault during the previous administration should not be undone, and instead should be strengthened to continue to work towards the ultimate goal of colleges and universities free from sexual violence.

If you have experienced any type of violence, including sexual assault, please know that there is help. We offer a range of services to victims and survivors of violence, all of which are provided free of charge. If you would like to get involved in our mission to end campus sexual assault and other forms of violence, you can donate, volunteer, or join one of our community groups, FAB or FAME to take direct action right here in Westmoreland County.

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