A Renewed Call to Action to End Rape and Sexual Assault

President Barack Obama signs the Campus Sexual Assault Presidential Memorandum

President Barack Obama signs the Campus Sexual Assault Presidential Memorandum during a White House Council on Women and Girls meeting in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

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As part of an unprecedented national effort to address alarming rates of sexual assault on college campuses, President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum today to establish the “White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.” The taskforce will be charged with sharing best practices, and increasing transparency, enforcement, public awareness, and interagency coordination to prevent violence and support survivors. The creation of this Task Force builds upon the President’s 2010 call to action, which urged the federal government to support survivors and aggressively take action against sexual assault.

The statistics around sexual assault in this country are nothing short of jarring. A report just released by the White House Council on Women and Girls entitled, “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action” reveals that nearly 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 71 men have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetimes. These statistics are stunning, but still can’t begin to capture the emotional and psychological scars that survivors often carry for life, or the courage needed to recover.

President Barack Obama signs the Campus Sexual Assault Presidential Memorandum during a White House Council on Women and Girls meeting in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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Addressing and Preventing Sexual Assault on Campus

If you are a young woman entering college, there is at least a one in five chance that you will be the victim of attempted or completed sexual assault.

Although colleges and universities have taken recent steps to address and prevent sexual assault, instances of sexual violence have long-term effects for victims and communities, fostering a climate of fear and disrespect and damaging the physical and psychological health of victims. Sexual assault creates an environment that can limit learning and undermine students’ ability to achieve their full potential.

UniversityAt the Department of Education, we understand that victims of sexual assault are more likely to suffer academically, to experience depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, to abuse alcohol and drugs, and to contemplate suicide. We also know there’s a need for improved victim services and support, increased accountability for those who commit acts of sexual violence, and stronger efforts to ensure that colleges and universities comply with federal laws that aim to make our campuses safer.

Research and best practices coming out of the field of public health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) support the need for a comprehensive, coordinated approach to violence prevention. The Department of Education encourages campus and community efforts to increase awareness and engage in primary prevention campaigns.

Some key elements of effective prevention

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