The U.S. Education Department’s civil rights chief, Candice Jackson, has apologized for the “flippant” comments she made on college sexual assault, according to the Associated Press.
In an interview on Wednesday with The New York Times, Jackson was highly critical of the Obama administration’s handling of sexual assault, which she believes was not “fairly balanced between the victim and the the accused student.” She then went on to say that 90 percent of the allegations “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk.'” Where she got this statistic is unclear, but this highly controversial statement garnered so much criticism that she issued an apology.
Jackson was hired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who herself has been under fire for scaling back campus rape investigations, according to HuffPost. The scaling back came after a suggestion from Jackson that it was necessary clear a backlog of complaints, which skyrocketed under Obama. Not only has the Trump administration fired over 40 people from the investigation staff, Jackson has also decided to hide the list of schools who have been discovered to be mishandling sexual assault cases.
This directly contradicts Jackson’s apology, since she said told the Associated Press that as a victim of sexual assault herself, she would never wish to diminish anyone’s experiences. She added “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.”
This rhetoric is somewhat surprising given her actions during the recent 2016 presidential campaign—in a Facebook post, she notably called Trump’s sexual assault victims “fake victims” doing it for no other reason than “political gain.”
Despite the controversies surrounding both DeVos and Jackson, it appears that there will still be a rollback of federal funding for sexual assault allegations, as DeVos has meetings set up to discuss this possibility over the coming days. This undoing is catastrophic for those who have spent the last few years trying to combat a systematic system of “rape culture.”
Jackson’s comments smack of victim blaming and the trivialization of rape. Hearing something like this from a government official seems to continue the culture of locker room banter and the “boys will be boys!” mentality that allowed Brock Turner to serve only half of his prison sentence.
Actions speak louder than words, and we can only hope that Candice Jackson follows her apology with efforts to make college campuses safer for all.