White House Fights to Prevent Sexual Assault in College

The White House Fights to Prevent Sexual Assault in College.

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Last week, the Obama Administration released the new guidelines for preventing, and responding to, sexual assault on college campuses. To that end, the White House guidelines give practical steps for identifying sexual assault in addition to prevention and response. The guidelines propose new requirements and strategies for college officials and aids victim rights by including a clear path to file complaints against institutions. All colleges should begin preparing for the requirements and build them into their existing sexual assault prevention strategies.

The new guidelines are outlined in a report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault – a group President Obama created back in January. When creating the task force, President Obama promised a coordinated federal response to address rape and sexual assault on campuses.  The task force includes the Secretary of Education, Secretary of Defense, the U.S. Attorney General and leaders of several other agencies.

The guidelines released by the task force provide many suggestions. There are 4 main areas on which they focus:

  • How Best to Identify the Problem: Campus Climate Surveys: This task will require campus official to gather feedback from students on their knowledge of, and attitudes towards, sexual assault. This is a sort of litmus test to gather information on the culture of the campus. College officials will be able to determine the scale of the problem on their campus so they can develop informed policies and practices to prevent sexual assault.
  • Preventing Sexual Assault on Campus: This includes prevention classes and awareness training, creating an open dialogue on the reality of sexual assault on campus, and according to the guidelines, specifically engaging men to be allies of the cause.
  • Effectively Responding When a Student Is Sexually Assaulted: This task is a two-prong solution. The task force recognizes that victims of assault vary in their willingness to file an official public complaint. While some will do so without hesitation, there are other victims that would refer to keep the issue private. For the former group, colleges need to set a clear protocol for students filing a complaint and the response from the college. For students who aren’t ready to go public with a complaint, colleges will need to have a confidential system in place for students to get in touch with someone they can speak to about it.
  • Improving the Federal Government’s Enforcement Efforts, and Making Them More Transparent: The federal government wants students and college officials to be aware of their policies and enforcement efforts. They have created a new site, www.NotAlone.gov, to provide additional support and resources.

The task force guidelines go into more detailed information as well. The new guidelines tie into existing requirements outlined in laws such as the Clery Act, Campus SaVE, part of the Violence Against Women Act and Title IX. The guidelines offer specific strategies and methods to fully comply with the legal requirements of the aforementioned laws. This is part of an overall push by the White House to eliminate rape and sexual violence on college campuses.

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