White House releases new sexual assault guidelines for colleges


One in five female students reading this will be the victim of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault in college, according to a 2007 study by the National Institute of Justice.

The White House announced new guidelines, supplemented by NIJ’s study, on Tuesday meant to pressure public universities to do more to prevent sexual violence and help the victims of that violence.

On Thursday, the Department of Education divulged the names of 55 colleges currently being investigated for violating Title IX with regards to sexual assault on campus. Title IX prohibits public universities from discriminating against individuals based on gender.

Although K-State is not under investigation, the new guidelines suggested by the “Not Alone” report will apply to the school.

About 75 percent of female victims know the attacker, Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Barack Obama and chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, said in a conference call Thursday.

Jarrett said she listened to a survivor of sexual assault during the course of the task force’s three-month investigation.

“As a mom, all I could think about was, ‘What if it was my daughter?'” Jarrett said.

Among its recommendations, the White House wants colleges to conduct campus climate surveys about sexual assault to determine how serious the problem is for the specific school.

Lynn Rosenthal, senior White House adviser on Violence Against Women, said the task force created a tool kit for universities to use in developing their own surveys. The problem of underreporting sexual assault on campus is common, according to Rosenthal.

“Individual schools really don’t know the extent of the problem on campus,” Rosenthal said. “The school can use the survey to develop their own policy (for sexual assault reporting).”

If proven successful, the White House might recommend the survey be required of all universities by 2016.

Rosenthal said schools should be allowed to have confidential resources, like counselors, that sexual assault victims can talk to without being forced to report the incident. Many victims want to come forward, but are too afraid of being pulled into legal action, according to Rosenthal.

“We recognize the need for survivors to talk to someone on the front end,” Rosenthal said.

Tony West, associate attorney general for the Department of Justice, said universities needed to adopt a holistic approach in order to combat sexual assault crimes. He said too much focus has been placed on women and self-defense and not enough on men’s behavior.

“We need to shift our thinking,” West said. “We need to teach men and women how to become active bystanders.”

Jarrett said men need to play a larger role in reducing sexual assaults on campus, especially by intervening when they see it happening.

“We need men to step up at every phase,” Jarrett said.

The task force’s report also calls upon the government to be more transparent with its efforts to enforce the law. As part of that effort, the group has set up the website notalone.gov.

A set of public service announcements were also released this week. The PSAs feature the president, vice president, and celebrities such as Steve Carrell and Daniel Craig calling on men to stop sexual assaults from happening.

Jarrett said that although the group was set up to address female victims, they also recognize male and LGBT victims.

“Title IX covers LGBT students,” Jarrett said. “We want people to know this covers all communities.”

Ameerah McBride, deputy Title IX coordinator for K-State, said she could not offer any comment on the task force’s report.