WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is taking steps designed to help colleges and universities reduce sexual assaults on their campuses and provide better protections for the victims when they do occur.
Schools should identify trained, confidential victim’s advocates and conduct surveys to better gauge the frequency of sexual assault on their campuses since these types of crimes are underreported, a White House task force on sexual assault recommends in a report to be released Tuesday.
It said the Justice Department will help develop training programs in trauma care for school officers and assess different models for schools to use to adjudicate such cases since some sexual assault survivors are wary of an adjudication process that can open them up to potentially painful or embarrassing questions by students or staff.
It also promises greater transparency. A new website, notalone.gov, will post enforcement actions and offer information to victims about how to seek local help and information about filing a complaint, the White House said late Monday.
It provides a checklist for schools to use in drafting or reevaluating sexual misconduct policies that includes ideas a school could consider when defining what is or isn’t sexual consent.
“Prevention and education programs vary widely, with many doing neither well,” the task force said. “And in all too many instances survivors of sexual violence are not at the heart of an institution’s response: They often do not have a safe, confidential place to turn after an assault, they haven’t been told how the system works, and they often believe it is working against them. We heard from many who reached out for help or action, but were told they should just put the matter behind them.”
The task force, appointed by President Barack Obama in January, make its recommendations following a 90-day review that included dozens of in-person and online meetings with victims, advocates and higher education representatives. It was made up of Obama’s Cabinet members, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder.
“Colleges and universities need to face the facts about sexual assault — no more turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn’t exist,” said Vice President Joe Biden, who was to make remarks Tuesday when the task force findings were released. “We need to give victims the support they need — like a confidential place to go — and we need to bring the perpetrators to justice.”