In an effort to lower the number of sexual assaults on college campuses, President Barack Obama announced the creation of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault during his weekly address on Saturday.
In his address, Obama said the task force will help colleges prevent and respond to sexual assaults better than they have in the past. Though he did not provide specific policy recommendations, Obama said the task force will find ways to strengthen the criminal justice system in order to prevent future crimes, bring those who commit them to justice and reach out to survivors to aid them in their healing process.
“An estimated one in five women is sexually assaulted at college — and that’s totally unacceptable,” Obama said. “College should be a place where our young people feel secure and confident.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, known commonly as the CDC, estimate 24 people per minute are raped, experience physical violence or are stalked by an intimate partner in the U.S. According to the CDC, 1 million women are raped per year and 1 in 71 men are raped sometime in their lifetimes.
“We’ve got to teach young people — women and men — to be brave enough to stand up and help put an end to these crimes,” Obama said.
Kenera Colley, a biology and ethnic studies junior, is a member of Voices Against Violence, an organization run by the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center dedicated to promoting awareness about sexual violence. Colley said she thinks the task force will bring more attention to the issue.
“I think that the task force will aid in the fight because colleges around the country will know how to respond to sexual assault on campus,” Colley said. “This task force is a step in the right direction.”
Colley said she believes colleges should hold conversations or presentations about the prevalence of sexual violence to develop ways to keep the students safe.
English sophomore Arati Warrier said she is cautious when walking around campus at night. She said the task force is a way to bring light to the issue, but is not enough to fix it.
“There are a lot of people who still don’t even understand what constitutes sexual assault or rape,” Warrier said. “It’s not enough to create government programs — there has to be a shift in the way society views sexual violence.”