One in five women is sexually assaulted in college. It frequently happens during her freshman or sophomore year and the assailant is more often than not someone she knows. It also is unlikely that the victim will report what happened.
These are statistical realities that the Obama administration is hoping to end. The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released on Tuesday a report that provides guidelines colleges can use to deal with sexual assault cases. It's the culmination of a 90-day review period during which it heard from thousands of people from across the country representing a variety of stakeholders.
The administration also has developed a national reporting system on a new website, NotAlone.gov, which is a toolkit to help schools conduct a climate survey of students about their experiences and gauge the prevalence of sexual assault on campus.
The White House is urging colleges and universities to conduct the survey in the next year, but also is exploring legislative or administrative options requiring them to conduct an evidence-based survey in 2016. A clearer picture of what's happening on their campuses, the administration argues, will enable schools to tackle the problem more effectively and measure the success of their efforts.
NotAlone.gov also includes information about how to respond to an assault, hot line numbers and mental health services that can be found by typing in a ZIP code. In addition to making public each school's enforcement data, it provides schools with guidance and steps they can follow to ensure they're meeting their federal legal obligations when responding to sexual assaults and information about how to prevent assaults. The Centers for Disease Control will promote intervention programs that encourage bystanders to step in and help potential victims.
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