White House Targets Campus Sexual Assault, Arizona Colleges Pleased

April 29, 2014

The White House has released a set of new guidelines for colleges and universities to protect students from sexual violence. On Tuesday, President Barack Obama said schools can no longer turn a blind eye to the issue.

The “Not Alone” report drafted by the Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault makes several recommendations to stop sexual violence on campuses. Among them are calling on universities to conduct surveys to better gauge the problem on campuses and have on-site victim advocates. It also wants schools to have a reporting and confidentiality protocol to help victims feel protected.

Rodrigo Olivares is with La Frontera Arizona, a suicide prevention center that also works in sexual assault prevention initiatives at Arizona State University.

“It really helps the universities and the communities work in unison. And when we work in unison greater things happen," Olivares said. "So I feel that that’s one of the greatest strengths about this huge event that’s really going to help reemphasize to the universities but on a greater level.”

Megan McKendry is a violence prevention specialist at the University of Arizona. She said the plan must include everyone affected by sexual violence.

“The task force could and should make their recommendations more gender inclusive and acknowledged folks, not only men, but also gender-fluid people," McKendry said.

The White House promises greater transparency by developing a website where victims learn how to file a complaint, obtain information on local support agencies, and where enforcement actions are posted. 

It also commits the federal government to create a checklist for schools to use in drafting or reevaluating sexual misconduct policies.  McKendry says the federal government's efforts hold everyone accountable.

“I think we need to have a way to measure and evaluate whether or not what we’re doing is working. And so a campus climate survey could help us understand if all of the work that’s been put into addressing this issue on campus is actually having an impact, and it’s really important," she said.

According to the Department of Education there are 51 campuses with ongoing investigations for the way they handled sexual violence complaints.