samira wiley handmaid 712

Yesterday, we wrote about how Betsy DeVos is consulting “men’s rights” groups along with victims’ rights groups while she is considering how to move forward with guidelines regarding sexual assault on college campuses. Well, the news just keeps getting worse. In an interview with the New York Times, Candice Jackson, the top civil rights official at the Department of Education, said that 90% of women who make rape accusations are lying about them.

Some things Jackson, who is a sexual assault survivor herself, said: there is “a red flag that something’s not quite right” in the legal process; the rights of accused students are ignored; investigative processes have not been “fairly balanced between the accusing victim and the accused student”; students have been called rapists “when the facts just don’t back that up.”


Most damning, she said that it’s usually “not even an accusation that these accused students overrode the will of a young woman.”

“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 - and DeVos and Trump - doesn't seem to understand what rape is. Rape is sex without consent. If a person doesn’t consent to sex, and you have sex with them anyway, it is rape. Even if you don’t use physical force. Even if both of you are drunk. Even if you had had consensual sex earlier. Even if your partner said yes at first and then changed their mind and said "stop." No consent? The other details don’t matter. It’s rape.

Furthermore, Jackson is saying there’s an epidemic, not of rape, but of false rape accusations. Let’s look at the numbers! In 2015, the American Association of American of Universities surveyed 150,000 students at 27 colleges and universities about sexual assault in one of the largest studies of its kind. They found that 27.2% of female college seniors had experienced sexual assault, compared to 8.6% of male college seniors. The study found that trans and nonbinary students had even higher rates of sexual assault than women. That means that MORE THAN A QUARTER of women and trans and nonbinary people who attend college will be sexually assault while they are there.

Now let’s look at reporting. The study found that only 5 to 28% of students who had been sexually assaulted reported their assaults. And for the most serious assaults, involving penetration, almost 75% did not report. Reasons for not reporting included not thinking the sexual assaults were serious enough to report, feeling ashamed, fearing not being taken seriously, and believing that authorities would do nothing about it.

That study didn’t track how many of those rare reports made were false, but other studies have - and they say that while false rape accusations do happen, they happen very rarely. In a paper on false rape reports, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center finds that most studies place that number between 2% and 10%. They conclude, “Research shows that rates of false reporting are frequently inflated, in part because of inconsistent definitions and protocols, or a weak understanding of sexual assault. Misconceptions about false reporting rates have direct, negative consequences and can contribute to why many victims don’t report sexual assaults.”

We’ve all seen this chart from RAINN, but it’s worth bringing out again. As it shows, only 0.6% of rapists see any jail time. 


SO. Let’s recap. More than a quarter of women and trans and nonbinary people who attend college will be sexually assaulted while they are there. Very few of them will report their assaults because they believe, correctly, that the colleges and law enforcement won’t believe them or won't do much about it. Of the few that do report, most will see very their assailants face no consequences.

And Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, and Candice Jackson want to make sure that reports happen even less often, and that rapists face even fewer consequences.

Top photo: The Handmaid's Tale, Hulu



More from BUST

Betsy DeVos Is Asking MRAs For Their Advice About Campus Rape, Becuse 2017 Can Always Get Worse

Why Do All These Women Keep Accusing Me Of Sexual Assault?

The How-To Guide To Launching A Poliitical Campaign


Erika W. Smith is BUST's digital editorial director. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @erikawynn and email her at