White House task force issues recommendations on campus rape

In Campus News, National News, News

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault issued its first report last week, calling for more stringent standards for preventing and responding to campus assaults. 

The task force launched a new website, NotAlone.gov, and recommended steps universities need to take to address rape on campuses, including campus climate surveys, engaging men and improving responses to incidences of rape.  

In April, a rape was reported at the on-campus housing complex at Cal State Fullerton. The victim was unable to consent, according to University Police records. It is being handled as an isolated acquaintance rape. 

The university has not disclosed if there has been an arrest made. 

This is the case with 75 to 80 percent of campus rapes, according to a study quoted in the White House report. One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, and a great majority knows her attacker. Many are assaulted while drugged or passed out. Most victims are either freshmen or sophomores.

The rape reported on campus this year was the first since 2010, when two rapes in campus housing were reported. 

However, data overwhelmingly indicate that rape on college campuses is “chronically” underreported.

Just 2 percent of incapacitated sexual assault survivors and 13 percent of forcible rape survivors report the crime to campus or local law enforcement, according to the report. 

“Sexual assaults on college campuses are one of the most underreported crimes that occur,” said University Police Lt. Scot Willey. “We are always assuming that there are more (victims) out there that just don’t feel comfortable coming forward, so we just try to do our best to let people know that we’re here for them.” 

Survivors of acquaintance rape frequently blame themselves, according to the report. Both forcible and acquaintance rapes go unreported due to fear of treatment by authorities, not knowing how to report, lack of proof and a desire for privacy. 

These problems can be compounded by a university’s desire to protect its image. By drawing attention to it and encouraging survivors to report a rape, the university can appear to be a dangerous place, according to the report. 

When campus rapes are ignored, the university appears to be safer. Competition in highly-competitive college rankings lists can lead universities to keep occurrences of rape out of the public eye. 

“We have to change that dynamic,” the report reads. 

On Thursday, the United States Department of Education released a list of 55 college and universities that are currently under investigation for possible violations of federal law on how sexual violence and harassment complaints were handled. UC Berkeley and USC are among those named. 

The task force recommended using campus climate surveys to gauge the true prevalence of sexual assault on campuses. The task force urged colleges and university to conduct the survey next year. 

The task force also recommended devising new prevention strategies. 

Among those strategies is a need for coaches, professors, administrators and campus leaders to set the tone that rape should not be condoned, according to the report. 

“If we get this right, today’s students will leave college knowing that sexual assault is simply unacceptable,” the report reads.

To find more information on reporting a rape or to find counseling, contact Counseling and Psychological Services at (657) 278-3040.

The WoMen’s Center, which also offers information on rape reporting, counseling and prevention, can be contacted at (657) 278-3928.

In an emergency, dial 911. University Police can be reached at (657) 278-2515.

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