White House, Universities Working to Combat Sexual Violence on Campuses

By: Josh Sidorowicz Email
By: Josh Sidorowicz Email

East Lansing, Mich. (WILX) 1 in 5 college students will be sexually assaulted before they graduate, and only 12 percent will ever report it.

Those statistics are part of a new report out Tuesday from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, suggesting there's a lot of work to be done still to eliminate sexual violence on campuses.

The Obama administration is warning colleges and universities to stop "turning a blind eye" to sexual assaults on campus, and released guidelines designed to stem campus sexual assaults and help the victims.

Along with the report, the White House is also rolling out a new website, NotAlone.gov, designed to provide more information for students and schools on how sexual assaults should be addressed and dealt with on campuses.

"I think it's a great start," said Laura Swanson, an MSU student who is also a survivor of sexual assault and advocate for the Sexual Assault Crisis Intervention Team.

"But it definitely will rely on individuals at the university and higher administration to take into consideration what the White House has dealt out for us."

The message from the Obama Administration "no more turning a blind eye" is clear in new public service announcements called "1 is 2 Many" scheduled to begin airing this May.

The task force recommends that schools identify trained, confidential victim's advocates and conduct surveys to better gauge the frequency of sexual assault on their campuses. These types of crimes are under reported.

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 expose them to potentially painful or embarrassing questions by students or staff.

Despite Michigan State currently being one of several universities nationwide under federal investigation for its handling of multiple sexual assault cases from the past three years, Swanson says the picture is not as grim as it might seem.

"Probably in the past things haven't always been perfect, but that's with every system but we do know that Michigan State has been working really hard," Swanson said. "We've been really proud administration in recent years and how they've been dealing with sexual violence."

The university's Title IX coordinator and director of the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiative, Paulette Granberry Russell, couldn't comment on any of the current investigations, but did say Tuesday's guidelines represent a continuation of work happening for the the past three years.

"All of higher education--Michigan State included--has been working aggressively to address these issues," she said.

Education campaigns like "No Excuses" which the university is launching this month is one of the key components of these efforts when it comes to ensuring awareness begins as soon as students start as freshman on campus.

"We've done quite a bit of work, not only in the context of education but also reporting protocol and changes in our policies, ways in which we can better education incoming students," Granberry Russell said.

"The conversations we're having about sexual assault are very different from what they were even five years ago."


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