WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration admonished colleges and universities — "No more turning a blind eye" — in new guidelines designed to stem sexual assaults on campuses and help the victims.
A White House task force on sexual assault recommends in a report being 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, notalone.gov, posts enforcement actions and offers information to victims about how to seek local help and information about filing a complaint.
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."
Lisa Maatz, vice president for government affairs with the American Association of University Women, called the recommendations a "game changer" that can "only be helpful in addressing this issue and dealing with it head-on."