White House to unveil efforts to combat sexual violence on campuses

Posted by Lesley Clark on April 28, 2014 

The Obama administration Tuesday will unveil a new website -- NotAlone.gov -- and a series of steps aimed at preventing campus sexual assault.

The website will make enforcement data public and make other resources accessible to students and schools. Students can learn about their rights, search enforcement data, and read about how to file a complaint.

The website will also help schools and advocates and will make available federal guidance on legal obligations, best available evidence and research, and relevant legislation.

It's also aimed at helping potential victims, administration officials said, and will have resources from outside the federal government, such as hotline numbers and mental health services locatable by simply typing in a zip code.

Vice President Joe Biden will kick off the event which includes release of the first report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which is proposing steps to identify the scope of the problem on college campuses, help prevent assaults, help schools respond effectively and make more transparent the federal government’s enforcement efforts.

“Colleges and universities need to face the facts about sexual assault," Biden said. "No more turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn’t exist. We need to give victims the support they need – like a confidential place to go – and we need to bring the perpetrators to justice."

The Task Force came up with its recommendations after a 90-day review period during which it heard from thousands of people from across the country, the White House says. The administration estimates that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted while in college, most often in their freshman or sophomore years. In the majority of cases, it’s by someone the woman knows -- and most often women don't report what happened. Men too are victimized, though fewer, the White House says.

The recommendations include providing schools with toolkits for developing and conducting climate survey to gauge the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, test students’ attitudes and awareness about the issue, and develop solutions. The administration is calling on schools to voluntarily conduct the climate survey next year and will use the results to refine the survey methodology and develop a survey for all schools to use.

The task force is also looking at legislative or administrative options to require colleges and universities to conduct evidence-based surveys in 2016.

The Department of Education will also release new guidance clarifying that on-campus counselors and advocates can talk to a survivor in confidence and the administration will provide a sample confidentiality and reporting policy.

The administration will also provide specialized training for school officials, with the Justice Department developing new training programs for campus officials involved in investigating and adjudicating sexual assault cases.


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