Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will hear personal accounts on Thursday from two former students and attorneys representing men who allege they were falsely accused of rape, according to a spokesperson for Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE), a nonprofit that is described by the Southern Policy Law Center (SPLC) as promoting misogyny.
The ex-students meeting with Secretary DeVos are Joseph Roberts, a retired Navy serviceman who previously lobbied members of Congress about what SAVE describes as the “military’s sexual assault witch hunt,” and Jonathon Andrews, a representative from SAVE who claims he was the victim of multiple false accusations that were meant to punish him after Andrews alleged that he was sexually assaulted by a member of his fraternity.
Chris Perry, SAVE's deputy executive director and an attorney who will also attend, said he could not recall whether SAVE or the Department of Education first placed the call to arrange the meeting, but said that SAVE has been "sending them different materials since the [current] administration has taken over."
While he didn’t reveal what the contents of those "materials” were, Perry said SAVE's goal was to open a dialogue with Secretary DeVos about the adjudication of on-campus sexual assault cases.
Perry said that while rape remains a "serious crime," one that should be "taken seriously," both victims and the accused should strive to have cases dealt with in a "respectful manner" and create a "more fundamentally fair system."
Yet on its website, SAVE says the organization believes that "intrusive questions about the accuser’s prior sexual history" should be permitted.
The SPLC describes SAVE’s overarching goal as "lobbying to roll back services for victims of domestic abuse and penalties for their tormentors, while working to return the focus to the 'true victims of abuse' — the falsely accused."
SAVE is one of a handful of groups slated to get together with DeVos on Thursday, According to Politico, the National Coalition for Men (NCFM), a "Men's Rights" group and Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE) will also attend, after being contacted by the Department of Education.
Jaclyn Friedman, a leading expert on campus sexual violence and the editor of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, called the NCFM, FACE, and SAVE “hate groups, plain and simple,” and said they should not be given an audience with Secretary DeVos.
“They actively publicize the names of rape survivors in order to intimidate them and others into shutting up and taking it,” Friedman told The Daily Beast.
“They blame women for ‘instigating’ men's violence against them. They think victims' sexual histories should be fair game in rape cases. They outright lie about the realities of rape on campus.”
Friedman added that asking these groups how the DoE should best address campus rape is “like asking Russia to collaborate with us on ensuring election integrity.”
“[This is] so completely beyond the pale and therefore par for the course of the Trump administration,” she said. “Make no mistake: if DeVos takes any of their advice, she will be enabling rapists. Period.”
The meeting with Secretary DeVos, who has refused to state if she will uphold the guidelines established by the "Dear Colleague" letter, a 2011 reinterpretation of Title IX that mandated how schools adjudicated sexual assault cases, lowered the standard of evidence, and was intended to encourage victims to come forward, is scheduled for Thursday at 1 p.m.
Candice E. Jackson, the acting head of the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, will also be present. Jackson previously called the women who have accused President Trump of sexual assault “fake victims” and has written a memo which scaled back the scope of OCR’s investigations of civil rights violations on campus previously put in place by the Obama administration.
SAVE’s spokesperson also offered to put The Daily Beast in touch with the Independent Women’s Forum, a Koch Brothers-backed nonprofit that rails against “feminazis” and counts Kellyanne Conway as a non-active member, for further information about the attendant issues.
When pressed as to what changes would need to be made in order to achieve greater fairness, Perry again declined to specify exactly what they might be. Legislation would need to be enacted and alterations made to current campus policies, he said, adding that universities lack both the administrative independence, expertise, and resources to conduct investigations.
Instead, SAVE would prefer that felony-level cases be handled by law enforcement. According to analysis of recent Justice Department statistics conducted by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, an anti-sexual assault nonprofit, out of 100 rapes both on- and off-campus that are reported nationwide, only three perpetrators will ever serve time.
Perry also called for fuller investigations by universities, but when asked about the decision by the OCR to reduce the scope of campus civil rights investigations as well as the cuts to the OCR's staff in President Trump's proposed budget, he declined to offer an opinion.
"I don't know that's necessarily something that's been on our agenda," he said. "I don't have an opinion one way or another."
When The Daily Beast pointed to a statement on SAVE's website which suggests that "detailed, often intrusive questions about the accuser’s prior sexual history" should be permitted, counter to Federal evidentiary rules, Perry said he was not aware that it existed.
"I didn't write it," he said, adding that prior sexual history has no bearing unless it specifically pertains to both the accused and the victim, and even then may not be relevant.
In a follow up email, Perry thanked the Daily Beast for alerting him to the contents of SAVE’s website, adding that the organization would be reviewing the material to determine if advocating against Rape Shield laws is “appropriate.”
"The individual statements or articles do not always reflect SAVE’s position on a given topic," he said.
Perry did not reveal what policy changes SAVE planned to lobby for Thursday, but made it clear SAVE did not want to see any changes made to Title IX. He said SAVE does believe that the "Dear Colleague" letter, which is a part of Title IX, should be repealed and replaced.
Harry Crouch, the President of the NCFM, argued that that Ray Rice's then-fiancée, Janay Rice, and women as a whole are often responsible for acts of domestic violence perpetrated by their partner. In an interview with Pacific Standard, Crouch once said “if [Janay Rice] hadn't aggravated him, she wouldn't have been hit.”
The Daily Beast asked Perry if he was concerned about sharing a meeting with the NCFM on Thursday.
"It's important that everybody's opinions are heard. And I think that they're certainly entitled to offer their recommendations," Perry replied.
The NCFM, FACE, and the Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment.