April 29, 2014 — The White House on Monday released guidelines designed to increase pressure on colleges to address sexual assaults on their campuses, the New York Times reports (Steinhauer, New York Times, 4/28).
The White House Task Force To Protect Students from Sexual Assault -- led by Vice President Biden and the White House Council on Women and Girls -- released the report after surveying sexual assault survivors, college administrators and others about how to stem the sexual assault crisis at colleges. According to the task force, one in five women is sexually assaulted in college (Anderson, Washington Post, 4/28).
According to the Times, the White House "likely" will ask Congress to pass measures that would enforce the task force's recommendations and penalize schools that failed to do so (New York Times, 4/28).
Task Force Recommendations
The task force in the report recommended that colleges conduct campus climate surveys, which would help administrators "gauge the prevalence of sexual assault on campus, test students' attitudes and awareness about the issue, and provide schools with an invaluable tool for crafting solutions."
In addition, the group also said that colleges and universities should implement training that focuses on "bystander intervention." The task force said that to help spur such action, the administration is "releasing a Public Service Announcement featuring President Obama, Vice President Biden, and celebrity actors."
The task force also called on colleges to identify trained victim advocates who can help in emergencies and provide ongoing support. According to the Washington Post, the administration will release sample reporting and confidentiality protocols, as well as a checklist designed to ensure that campus policies on sexual assault are effective.
The recommendations also said that the administration will launch a website, NotAlone.gov, that will publicize enforcement data and other information about campus sexual assault. In addition, the website will offer sexual assault survivors information on their rights, how to file a complaint and who to seek out for confidential assistance (Washington Post, 4/28).
The task force also said that the Department of Justice will help develop training programs in trauma care for school officers, as well as evaluate different ways that schools can process and adjudicate sexual assault cases (Hefling, AP/Sacramento Bee, 4/29).
In releasing the recommendations, Biden said, "Colleges and universities need to face the facts about sexual assault" and stop "turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn't exist." He added, "We need to give victims the support they need, like a confidential place to go, and we need to bring the perpetrators to justice."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said that she is "pleased that the task force has recommended this important step to increasing transparency and accountability," adding that she looks forward to "growing our bipartisan coalition supporting this and other much-needed reforms" (New York Times, 4/28).