With rape and sexual assault cases prevalent on campuses across the nation, President Barack Obama is spearheading a memorandum to better protect students and prevent incidents at universities like University of Wisconsin.
The White House released a report, “Rape and Sexual Assault: A Renewed Call to Action,” which recognized that college-aged women are more at risk of being sexually assaulted than any other demographic. According to the report, almost 22 million American women and 1.6 million men are raped in their lifetime.
On Jan. 15, Obama signed a presidential memorandum designating a task force of administration officials 90 days to devise a new plan. The memorandum aims to help colleges respond to and curb sexual assault, expand public awareness of each school’s statistics and improve the ability of the federal government to hold schools that do not address the problem accountable.
Additionally, the report presents the White House’s role through harsher criminal justice by increasing arrest, prosecution and conviction for sexual assault perpetrators, as well as working to reduce sexual assault that occurs within the military.
Chair of UW’s End Violence on Campus, Carmen Hotvedt said one in five American women are sexually touched during college without having given consent, according to the American College Health Association. UW participates in an assessment every four years and it has found that statistics on campus are on par with national rates, Hotvedt said.
Associated Students of Madison Rep. Hannah Kinsella said a campus-wide survey will come out Tuesday which will gauge campus knowledge on sexual assault and resources available on campus.
Nationally and at UW, the number of students who report being sexually assaulted is far less than the number assaulted, Hotvedt said. This led to the creation of Tonight, a program used to educate first-year students about things such as consent, what is considered sexual assault and the Responsible Action Guideline, Hotvedt said. The climate on campus regarding this epidemic has changed since Tonight was installed, she said.
In a statement given to ABC News, Obama’s senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett, chair of the Council on Women and Girls, said in order to combat the problem, men must also be involved. Obama would like to set an example of men speaking out, Jarrett said.
Men are also sexually assaulted, but because it happens less frequently, there is less data concerning it, Hotvedt said. Men are also less likely to report being assaulted due to shame or social stigma, Hotvedt said.
Aly Jarocki, chair of Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment said the reason college-age students are most at risk of being sexually assaulted is the drinking culture.
“Since alcohol inhibits the ability to give consent, perpetrators may use it as a predatory drug,” Jarocki said.
Hotvedt said attention also needs to be placed on dating violence and stalking crimes.
Hotvedt said she is looking forward to the federal statements that are to come and is excited the president is addressing the situation at such a high level.