Obama targets problem of sexual assault

McClatchy Washington BureauJanuary 22, 2014 

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will hold a meeting of the Council on Women and Girls Wednesday morning as he looks to focus on the problem of sexual assault from the military to college campuses.

A new report that being released today Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action identifies areas to focus on and improve, including working to change social norms, improving criminal justice response and protecting students from sexual assault. It says 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted at college but that only 12 percent of student victims report the assault.

"Rape and sexual assault survivors often suffer from a wide range of physical and mental health problems that can follow them for life — including depression, chronic pain, diabetes, anxiety, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder," according to the report.

The report also says that "most victims know their assailants," and too many of these crimes go unreported.

"Sexual assault is pervasive because our culture still allows it to persist," the report says. "According to the experts, violence prevention can't just focus on the perpetrators and the survivors. It has to involve everyone."

Obama will sign a new presidential memorandum at the meeting to establish the White House Task Force on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault.

The task force has 90 days to come up with recommendations for colleges to prevent and respond to sexual assault, increase public awareness of each school's track record and enhance coordination among federal agencies to hold schools accountable if they don't confront the problem.

"The president recognizes that sexual violence is not a women's issue; it is a societal issue," Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. said. "Particularly significant in this call to action is engaging men as ‘influencers’ of other men – role models leading by example to discourage and deter sexual assault and violence."

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