Author Topic: White House releases guidelines to stop sexual assaults at colleges  (Read 235 times)

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Associated Press, April 29, 2014
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration admonished colleges and universities — “No more turning a blind eye” — as it released guidelines designed to stem sexual assaults on campuses and help the victims.

A White House task force on sexual assault recommends in a report to be released Tuesday that schools 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.

It says 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 a legal process that can open them up to potentially painful or embarrassing questions by students or staff.

It also promises greater transparency. A new website,, 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.

The task force is providing a checklist for schools to use in drafting or reevaluating sexual misconduct policies, including 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 to 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, was making 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.”

While 1 in 5 female students is assaulted, the White House said in announcing the task force that the review was also about protecting male victims and engaging men in discussions about preventing such assaults.

Within higher education, many campuses have been working to make improvements, but the issue is complex and some college administrators have sought answers from the federal government about how to interpret federal law. Research has shown that most campus sexual assault victims know their attackers, alcohol or drugs are often involved and only 12 percent of college women attacked report it to police.

A key tool the government has against campus sexual assault is Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funds. The 1972 law is better known for guaranteeing girls equal access to sports, but it also regulates institutions’ handling of sexual violence and is increasingly being used by victims who say their school failed to protect them. Fifty-one campuses currently have such an ongoing investigation involving sexual violence, the Education Department said.

Title IX requires that schools proactively work to prevent sexual crimes, promptly investigate complaints and discipline the accused if it’s more likely than not that violence occurred. The school can’t retaliate against students who file complaints and must ensure that victims can continue their education free of ongoing harassment.

Complaints have ticked up in the past couple years, after the Education Department publicized guidance on Title IX’s sexual assault provisions in 2011. The department can withhold federal funding from a school that doesn’t comply, but so far has not used that power and instead negotiated voluntary resolutions when they find violations.

Another law that campus sexual assault cases fall under is the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to annually report crime statistics on or near their campuses, to develop prevention policies and ensure victims their basic rights.
Don't most colleges already have such programs in place? More reports and advocacy won't do diddly. As long as you have young people living in close proximity and a large supply of alcohol handy, there will be sexual assaults. As long as young people see nothing wrong with taking advantage of others and as long as young women believe they have to go along or else they'll be shunned, there will be sexual abuse on campuses.
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Re: White House releases guidelines to stop sexual assaults at colleges
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2014, 08:14:25 AM »
White House continues crackdown on campus sexual assault
By CAITLIN EMMA | 4/29/14 5:59 AM EDT

The Obama administration late Monday put more pressure on colleges and universities to protect victims of sexual assault on campuses — the latest in a series of public steps the administration has taken as fresh accusations of incidents being mishandled emerge almost daily.

“Colleges and universities need to face the facts about sexual assault,” Vice President Joe Biden said. “No more turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn’t exist. We need to give victims the support they need — like a confidential place to go — and we need to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Biden and a White House task force will unveil an extensive set of recommendations at an event Tuesday afternoon. Survivors, advocacy groups and Sens. Claire McCaskill and Kirsten Gillibrand, who have both advocated for more protection for victims, are on the guest list. Also Tuesday, the Education Department will issue a 50-point guidance document that will include answers to frequently asked questions from schools about their legal obligations to prevent and respond to sexual assault. And the department plans to collect and disseminate a list of Title IX coordinators by next year, answering one of advocates’ major demands.

Even as the recommendations were issued, Tufts University was threatened with the loss of federal financial aid because of a lingering issues with the handling of sexual assault and harassment complaints. Over the weekend, Brown University was criticized by one victim of sexual assault because the school allowed her attacker to return to campus. And last week, students filed a federal complaint against Columbia University for allowing perpetrators to remain on campus.

Situations like those drove the creation of, a site intended to help victims research their options and file complaints. It was a top priority for advocacy groups like the American Association of University Women.

““It is our hope that this can be a game-changer when it comes to transparency and awareness,” said Lisa Maatz, AAUW’s vice president of government relations. “It will compile currently scattered best-practice resources, self-help information and enforcement tools in one easy-to-use location.”

In addition, senior administration officials said they want to require climate surveys on campuses by 2016. The administration is providing a toolkit to schools for conducting those surveys, which would gauge the prevalence of sexual assault on campus and test student attitudes and awareness about the issue. Officials is asking for volunteers to test the surveys next year, and Rutgers University has already signed up.

An inappropriate, ineffective or lack of response by a college or university to cases of sexual violence violates Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs or activities.

The Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and Justice have been working together on the issue, and the recommendations mark a shift in the administration’s response to the problem, said S. Daniel Carter, director of 32 National Campus Safety Initiative at the VTV Family Outreach Foundation.

“The federal government’s activities to date have been like a scattered puzzle across the floor,” Carter said. “What’s critically important is that the federal government is coordinating all available resources across agencies to tackle campus sexual violence and that’s been reflected in all the work to create the task force recommendations … From January to April, it was an incredible transformation.”

The White House task force came up with its suggestions based on a number of listening sessions over the last few months. Administration officials heard from college and university presidents, Title IX coordinators, survivors, student activists, local law enforcement, student conduct personnel, advocacy groups, researchers and more.

And senior administration officials stressed that this is only the task force’s first report. Officials want to continue the listening sessions while making sure that the recommendations are carried out on campuses across the country.

The administration is also releasing a public service announcement featuring President Barack Obama, Biden and celebrities. The PSA has one message: “If she doesn’t consent – or can’t consent – it’s a crime,” the recommendations say. “And if you see it happening, help her, don’t blame her, speak up. We particularly urge men’s groups, Greek organizations, coaches, alumni associations, school officials and other leaders to use the PSA to start campus conversations about sexual assault.”

Some schools have been answering the administration’s call, cooperating with the federal government and actively taking on their own reforms to prevent and address cases. For example, the Education Department lauded the vast State University of New York system in October for entering into a voluntary agreement with OCR. The university system said it would take on a number of tasks, like providing regular, in-person or online training to staff responsible for recognizing and reporting cases of sexual violence. The agreement affected 29 campuses, totaling roughly 290,000 students and staff.

Still, accusations fly across the country about the institutional handling of sexual violence cases. The decision made by Tufts University to revoke a Title IX agreement that the school entered into with the Education Department marked the first time to the department’s knowledge an institution chose that route, spokeswoman Dorie Nolt said. The department could pull federal funding as a penalty.

“OCR stands ready to work with Tufts officials on this,” she said. “If Tufts does not come into compliance, OCR is also ready to proceed with other enforcement options outlined in the law.”

In addition to new recommendations, a regulation strengthening protections for victims of sexual violence on campus is coming soon. The panel tasked with writing a draft rule agreed to a package of changes in early April and the Education Department is set to write a notice of proposed rulemaking based on the agreed-upon language.

The new regulation, outlined by a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act last year, amends the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to record and report sexual crimes.

The negotiated rulemaking process attempts to go further than current Title IX law. New protections include requiring officials at colleges and universities to report the reasoning behind the outcomes of disciplinary proceedings. They have to report the reasoning behind any sanctions imposed. If students wish to choose a lawyer as an adviser during disciplinary proceedings, they can. And the regulation would categorize dating violence as a crime for federal reporting purposes while defining “prevention programs” at colleges and universities. Those programs should aim to prevent and end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

When the panel reached consensus on draft regulation language in early April, federal negotiator for the Education Department Gail McLarnon noted that the administration was “on a bit of a fast track for VAWA.”

Even before the rulemaking process, the Obama administration has made cracking down on sexual violence a top priority. In fiscal 2013, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights received about 60 complaints related to sexual violence. Forty-five were resolved.

In 2011, OCR released a “Dear Colleague” letter that emphasized the duty of colleges and universities to eliminate sexual violence, prevent its recurrence and address its effects.

“The sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students’ right to receive an education free from discrimination and,” the letter says, “in the case of sexual violence, is a crime.”
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