White House outlines efforts to combat campus sexual assaults

Published April 30, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Tuesday unveiled a celebrity public service announcement, a new website — — and a series of recommendations aimed at lowering the rate of sexual assaults on college campuses.

At a White House event, Vice President Joe Biden said officials at colleges and universities, even if they fear their schools' reputations may be damaged, "can no longer turn a blind eye and pretend rape and sexual assault don't occur on their campuses."

The first report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault estimates that one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, most often in their freshman or sophomore years. In the majority of cases, it's by someone the woman knows.

Biden, who was introduced by a woman who was assaulted at Harvard, said only 13 percent of women attacked report the crime to their schools.

"They fear they'll be shamed. They're embarrassed," he said. "Or scared they won't be safe on campus with their attacker roaming around or maybe sitting in the same history class."

The steps include identifying the scope of the problem on individual college campuses, helping prevent assaults, helping schools respond effectively and making the federal government's enforcement efforts more transparent.

The recommendations were put forward after three months of 27 sessions with more than 2,000 people who made suggestions. The administration plans to hold more listening sessions and revise the report.

The website will make enforcement data public and make other resources accessible to students and schools.

The administration also wants to bring men into the equation. It released public service announcements featuring President Barack Obama and Biden; actors Daniel Craig, Steve Carell and Dule Hill; TV talk show host Seth Meyers; and director Benicio Del Toro.

The announcements encourage men to speak up and step in if they see someone in danger of being sexually assaulted.