President Launches Task Force to Prevent Sexual Assault on Campus

group of college students

“It is estimated that 1 in 5 women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted during their time there— 1 in 5. These young women worked so hard just to get into college, often their parents are doing everything they can to help them pay for it. So when they finally make it there only to be assaulted, that is not just a nightmare for them and their families, it’s an affront to everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve. It’s totally unacceptable.”

-President Barack Obama, January 2014

Launching an initiative to combat sexual assault on college campuses, President Obama today signed a presidential memorandum creating a task force to protect students from sexual assault. He also delivered a report compiled by the White House Council on Women and Girls that confirms nearly 22 million American women and 1.6 million men have been raped in their lifetimes.

The report, “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action,” says that one in five women has been sexually assaulted at college but that only 12 percent of student victims report the assault. Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, chair of the Council on Women and Girls, said men must be involved to combat the problem if we are to have a cultural shift. In an interview with the Associated Press, Jarrett said, “The president is committed to solving this problem, not just as president of the United States, but as a father of two girls who will soon be heading to college.”

Hailing the work of his White House Council as well as Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama said, “Some of you have worked on these issues for years. You know how long it took for our country to get to where we are now. And it didn’t just take new laws. It took a fundamental change in our culture—a shift in our attitudes about how we think about sexual violence, and how much we value the lives and dignity of our wives and sisters and daughters and sons.

Thanks to funding from the Avon Foundation for Women, FUTURES convened an advisory group that has provided an important report that will be relevant to the task force. The report, Beyond Title IX: Guidelines for Preventing and Responding to Gender-based Violence in Higher Education, contains information for educators and senior administrators who work in higher education.