Message to Betsy DeVos: Take Campus Sexual Assault Seriously

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Message to Betsy DeVos: Take Campus Sexual Assault Seriously

WASHINGTON - Today, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is finally meeting with advocates for campus sexual assault survivors. It’s a step forward. But the Department of Education has also taken two giant steps back in the last 24 hours.

First, DeVos scheduled similar meetings with “men’s rights activists” and other rape deniers. These fringe groups often claim that sexual assault survivors are “false accusers” and directly intimidate people who have been raped—both in person and online. They also came out of the woodwork in support of Donald Trump when tapes of him bragging about committing sexual assault were released last fall.

And second, astonishingly, just hours ago, the Education Department’s chief civil rights official, Candice Jackson, expressed public agreement with these rape deniers, telling the New York Times that “the [sexual assault] 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.’ ”

One in four American women is sexually assaulted while in college. This means many of our students—and many of our members—have experienced what the Education Department claimed just doesn’t happen.

After hearing this news, we have some more #Questions4Betsy—this time, on her decision to take meetings with groups that deny rape culture and work against creating safe learning environments for students, particularly women and LGBT students.

Tweet these #Questions4Betsy today during her meetings:

Why won’t you commit to enforcing Title IX? Women deserve your commitment. #Questions4Betsy

What kind of message does it send young women when you weaken protections for victims of sexual assault? #Questions4Betsy

Will you stop ignoring FOIA requests about schools under investigation for how they mishandle sexual assault? #Questions4Betsy

How can you protect the civil rights of students when cutting funding and enforcement for Title IX? #Questions4Betsy

Why are you meeting with groups that have a history of targeting and harassing women? #Questions4Betsy

Will you direct Dept of Ed official Candice Jackson to stop downplaying sexual assault? #Questions4Betsy

When the president brags about sexual assault, and you roll back protections, how are women supposed to feel safe? #Questions4Betsy

Survivors of sexual violence, including myself, continually have to advocate for ourselves, because others have failed or refused to. I was sexually assaulted during my junior year of college. That experience has never left me, and I will not sit back in silence while Betsy DeVos pretends that rape deniers have something useful to say about this topic. The question of whether sexual violence exists has nothing to do with politics or ideology. As the secretary of education, DeVos doesn’t have a choice when it comes to keeping students safe.

Make sure she hears from us, loud and clear, during her meetings today.

In unity,
Randi Weingarten
AFT President

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The American Federation of Teachers is a union of professionals that champions fairness; democracy; economic opportunity; and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through community engagement, organizing, collective bargaining and political activism, and especially through the work our members do.

The American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was founded in 1916 and today represents 1.6 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide.

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