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White House releases sexual assault report to protect students

By Alex Torpey

April 30, 2014 1:04 a.m.

The White House released a report Monday outlining guidelines it said universities should adopt when dealing with sexual assault cases.

The report, published by the Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which President Barack Obama established in January, recommended campuses focus on responding more effectively to incidents of sexual assault. The report made multiple suggestions and announcements, including having an officer who students can confide in informally and a website with information about reporting resources for students.

The White House encouraged universities to conduct voluntary campus sexual assault climate surveys in 2015. Universities may be mandated or legally responsible for conducting them by 2016, the report said.

Universities were also asked to make more transparent lists of campus counselors and officers who students can confidentially confide in.

The report recommends that schools have an officer students can talk to confidentially before deciding whether to move forward with a formal sexual assault claim.

The report also provided outlines for how universities can set up partnerships with local hospitals’ rape centers to expedite and standardize evidence collection.

The University of California has already complied with several recommendations of the report, UC President Napolitano said in a statement Tuesday. Napolitano said the UC already complies with the report’s training, student awareness, confidentiality and enforcement guidelines.

“We will continue to review and improve our efforts to make sure UC is a place where all students, faculty and staff are safe,” Napolitano said in the statement.

She added that there is still work to do at the UC.

According to Monday’s report, the White House will provide webinars of information for school officials by June, and policy and officer training guidelines will be available by September.

Government agencies and departments also plan to publish information and data regarding sexual assault on NotAlone.gov.

For example, the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education will disclose institutions it is investigating on the site and publish a list of university Title IX officers.

On enforcement, the Office for Civil Rights now requires universities to provide relief such as housing changes to victims during investigations, the report said.

Both the U.S. government and U.S. colleges are encouraged to take steps to address individual and cultural causes of sexual assault.

For instance, the report said men have a prominent role to play in prevention. They can step in effectively as bystanders and also help change attitudes and perceptions about sexual assault. Specifically, cultural perceptions of who is to blame in a sexual assault and the definition of consent needs to be changed, the report said.

The report also encourages universities to contribute to sexual assault research.

Compiled by Alex Torpey, Bruin contributor.

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