WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is launching an initiative to combat sexual assault, particularly on college campuses, turning the spotlight on a problem that has devastated millions of Americans yet rarely receives such White House attention.
Obama plans to sign a presidential memorandum today creating a task force to protect students from sexual assault, with a new White House report declaring that no one in America is more at risk of being raped or assaulted than college women. The report, “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action,” says that 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted at college but that only 12 percent of student victims report the assault.
The report that compiled by the White House Council on Women and Girls says nearly 22 million American women and 1.6 million men have been raped in their lifetimes, with victims more likely to suffer from depression, substance abuse and a wide range of physical ailments, including chronic pain and diabetes.
The report says rape’s prevalence is highest at college, fueled by drinking and drug use that can incapacitate victims.
Obama is giving the task force of administration officials 90 days to come up with recommendations for colleges to prevent and respond to sexual assault, increase public awareness of each school’s track record and enhance coordination among federal agencies to hold schools accountable if they don’t confront the problem.