POLITICS

White House Releases College Sexual Assault Recommendations

04/28/2014 09:33 pm ET | Updated Apr 29, 2014

WASHINGTON -- A task force appointed by the White House will announce recommendations on Tuesday to combat sexual assault on college campuses.

Colleges and universities, including some prestigious Ivy League schools, have come under fire over the past year for their failure to effectively respond to sexual assault complaints. The 30 Title IX complaints about colleges' handling of sexual assaults that have been filed in the first half of this fiscal year already equal the number filed in all of fiscal 2013, according to the Department of Education. One in five women is the victim of an attempted rape or rape while in college, according to a 2007 study commissioned by the National Institute of Justice.

President Barack Obama established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in January with the purpose of identifying the scope of the problem, strengthening federal enforcement efforts and providing schools with resources to effectively prevent and deal with sexual assault on their campuses.

One problem the task force has identified, according to a White House fact sheet released Monday night, is that students are either reluctant to report assaults due to a lack of confidentiality, or they report the assault but request that the school take no action against the perpetrator. In order to help schools respect the confidentiality of victims while still keeping the campus safe, the administration will provide a sample reporting and confidentiality policy that strikes an appropriate balance, according to the fact sheet.

The administration also will develop specialized training materials to ensure that school health workers and campus officials are prepared to provide adequate care and legal services to sexual assault victims.

The task force will recommend that each school conduct an anonymous "climate survey" of its students to test their awareness and attitudes toward sexual violence on campus. The administration will help schools develop these surveys and will explore legislation or administrative options to make them mandatory for all schools by 2016.

Other recommendations focus on prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Justice Department will implement and evaluate sexual assault prevention strategies, including a program used by the University of New Hampshire and University of Kentucky to get bystanders involved in speaking out or intervening when someone is at risk of being assaulted.

White House officials said the recommendations are the first step in a series of efforts by the task force and the administration to pressure schools to improve their response to sexual assaults.

As part of its effort, the White House plans a new website to make enforcement data and legal resources available to students and schools. The site, www.NotAlone.gov, will include hotline numbers and information about local mental health services.

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