Obama calls attention to campus sexual assaults

Media Credit: Samuel Hardgrove | Hatchet Photographer
President Barack Obama has charged a group of experts to propose ways for colleges to better address the escalating issue of sexual assaults on campuses. Hatchet File Photo.

The Obama administration announced plans to tackle the prevalence of sexual assaults on college campuses Wednesday in one of the most sweeping commitments to the issue from any president to date.

President Barack Obama ordered a task force of dozens of experts to draft a plan to advise universities nationwide how to better handle sexual assault. The group has 90 days to present its recommendations to the White House.

The goals include holding schools accountable for mishandling sexual assaults and creating universal protocols for investigating and prosecuting those accused of sexual assault, which is one of the most underreported crimes on college campuses.

“We need to encourage young people, men and women, to realize that sexual assault is simply unacceptable,” Obama said. “And they’re going to have to summon the bravery to stand up and say so, especially when the social pressure to keep quiet or to go along can be very intense.”

Kostas Skordalos, founder of Men Can Stop Rape at GW, said the commitment helped Obama “do his part to keep the issue on the minds of the American public.”

One in five women has survived an attempted or completed sexual assault in college, according to a report from the Obama administration. That report also calls attention to alcohol and drug use in the occurrence in sexual violence.

Studies have shown that the vast number of sexual assaults go unreported. The number of forcible sex offenses, which include rapes, recorded by GW has more than doubled since 2008. Six sex offenses were reported five years ago compared to 14 in 2012.

Obama also focused on the role of men in preventing sexual violence.

“I want every young man in America to feel some strong peer pressure in terms of how they are supposed to behave and treat women. That starts before they get to college,” Obama said.

Matt Scott, co-founder of GW Men of Strength, said he appreciated Obama’s focus on men’s roles in changing the culture of sexual assaults on campuses.

“The President is the first big leader in a long time to convey any influence about this issue,” Scott said. “Because it’s the President, the University will have to look at it more seriously.”

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