Later today, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is set to meet with lobbying and advocacy groups to discuss Title IX and campus sexual assault. The first 90 minutes of the meeting are dedicated to survivors and Title IX advocates and the last 90 involve university legal teams, but the middle segment hands the mic over to those who aim to speak for the “wrongly accused.”
So who are these organizations who claim to represent the “other side” of campus sexual assault?
National Coalition for Men (NCFM)
According to their website, “NCFM is dedicated to the removal of harmful gender based stereotypes, especially as they impact boys, men, their families and those who love them.” In and of itself, this is a worthy goal – one that feminism shares. Certain facets of their activism are commendable including their discussion of male rape victims and men’s mental health, but the rest of their poorly designed website cannot be described as anything but whining and misogyny.
Under their “Issues” tab, NCFM includes “False Accusations” as one of their primary campaigns. The disgusting assertion that “False accusations of sexual assault are rape of a different color” appears in bold letters across the page above an unsubstantiated claim that, “Some studies represent false accusations are 50% of allegations examined.” In reality, false reporting is estimated to be between 2 and 10% on top of the fact an estimated 63% of rapes are never reported to the police. The open their tirade with an anecdote, “Almost every month we read of another man freed from prison after years of incarceration because the false accusations that sent them to prison were proven false.” What they neglect to mention is twofold: these incidents are newsworthy because of their rarity and false accusations followed by convictions are far more likely to happen to men of color. False accusations that result in jail time are often due to intersections of race, not court biases against men.
Most dangerously, NCFM is known to publish the names and pictures of rape and assault survivors they deem to be “false accusers.” Regardless of the validity of their claims, it shames and silences other rape victims and discourages them from coming forward out of fear.
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE)
SAVE frames their activism as an effort to protect victims, but their obsession with false accusations paints another picture. Their website rails against the “Myth of Affirmative Consent” and “Rape Culture Hysteria,” while dedicating only a small section of the website to victim resources. Their other listed goal is to “stop all false allegations” which frames alleged victims as the enemy and rape accusations as fundamentally uncredible, which undermines their first purported goal to “protect victims.”
According to their website, their current campaigns are #StrokeOfThePen (an attempt to get the Department of Education to withdraw the 2011 Dear Colleague letter, a campus reform that aimed to make it easier for victims to come forward), #SB169WeCanDoBetter (a lobbying effort against California SB-169 for sex equity in education), and #TitleIXforAll (a complaint that Title IX advocacy only “seeks to advance the interests of female students”). Yet again, these efforts all fail in their alleged mission to protect victims and instead contribute to their delegitimization.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled them as a group that promotes misogyny, highlighting their assertion that, “Female initiation of partner violence is the leading reason for the woman becoming a victim of subsequent violence.”
Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE)
As it says in their masthead, “The mission of FACE is to advocate for equal treatment and due process for those affected by sexual misconduct allegations on campus and to support those students and their families through outreach and education.” FACE was founded by three mothers who believe their sons were falsely accused of sexual assault on three different college campuses and is, in many ways, the least odious of the organizations DeVos is meeting with today.
The beliefs and practices they advocate for in their 2014 White Paper are fair and just until point #21, “We call for the provision of appropriate sanctions for anyone who purposely, knowingly and intentionally brings false charges of sexual misconduct against a fellow student, and urge colleges and universities to make these specific consequences known to its student body as part of its ‘sexual misconduct’ guidelines contained within its handbook and as part of student orientation and training sessions.” This may seem like a reasonable request, but in making false accusations punishable, it creates another way to threaten and discourage victims from coming forward.
Point #22 is similarly worrying. It asserts the right of the accused to “challenge the evidence against him/her, including the credibility of his/her claimant.” This attack on alleged victim’s credibility seems to endorse asking invasive and irrelevant questions about their sexual history or clothing – the former was deemed inadmissible evidence by the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, while the latter is still all too common.
In a complete non-sequitur, point #23 is a call to curtail underage drinking on college campuses that reeks of victim blaming. If someone is drunk to the point of incapacitation, the onus of responsibility is on others to not rape someone who cannot verbally consent. Keeping it real for a moment, very little sex on college campuses is had stone cold sober, but if college students are adults who are mature enough to have sex, they should be mature enough to realize if someone is too far gone to verbally and enthusiastically consent, they should be given some water and saltines instead of unwanted sexual advances.
FACE’s heart is in the right place, but to their compatriots at SAVE and NCFM I have one thing to say: