President Obama Announces Initiative Against Sexual Assault On College Campuses

This morning, the White House released a report on sexual assault in college as the president announced a new initiative to improve the criminal justice response to rape on college campuses.

The report, “Rape And Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call To Action,” prepared by the White House Council On Women And Girls, notes that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during college and most are assaulted by someone that they know. Only 12 percent of these victims report the sexual violence. The report also notes that rapists tend to be repeat offenders, noting how one study had more than half of admitted rapists confessing to as many as six rapes each. Another huge problem is the often-dismissive response from local police and college administrations.

Today, President Obama will sign a memorandum to create a task force which seeks to address some of these problems. According to the report, the task force will address the following items over the next 90 days:

  • Provide educational institutions with best practices for preventing and responding to rape and sexual assault.
  • Build on the federal government’s enforcement efforts to ensure that educational institutions comply fully with their legal obligations.
  • Improve transparency of the government’s enforcement activities.
  • Increase the public’s awareness of an institution’s track record in addressing rape and sexual assault.
  • Enhance coordination among federal agencies to hold schools accountable if they do not confront sexual violence on their campuses.

It asks for arrest and prosecution rates to be increased and for more rape kits (DNA evidence collected after a rape) to be tested, and also pressures colleges to follow federal guidelines to do right by their students who survive sexual assault. All these changes could encourage more survivors of sexual violence to come forward and get the support they need.

Given the spate of colleges — UNC-Chapel Hill, UCONN and Emerson among them — which have had federal complaints filed against them by students and former students for mishandling campus sexual assault, today’s task force announcement is welcome news.

[White House: Rape And Sexual Assault – A Renewed Call To Action]
[New York Times]
[ABC News]
[USA Today]

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