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White House takes up fight against campus sexual assault

The White House is taking new actions to combat sexual assault  - particularly on college campuses.

President Barack Obama announced a new task force Wednesday intended to help educational institutions prevent and respond to sexual violence as well as beef up the ability of federal agencies to hold schools accountable if they aren't addressing problems.

Calling all sexual assaults “an affront on our basic decency and humanity,” Obama said the victimization of college students is also an "affront to everything they've worked so hard to achieve." 

"Our schools need to be places where our young people feel secure and confident as they prepare to go as far as their God-given talents can carry them," he said. 

Obama met with dozens of administration officials Wednesday to discuss ways to stem sexual violence nationwide – including prosecution reforms, increased resources for victims and an effort to “change the culture” around assaults.

"I want every young man in America to feel some strong peer pressure in terms of how they are supposed to behave and treat women,” Obama said.

Obama also reiterated that he expects "significant progress" in the Pentagon's initiative to stem sexual assaults in the military. 

A new report published Wednesday by the White House Council on Women and Girls states that one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college. But only about 12 percent of victims report the assault, and perpetrators are often repeat offenders.

“Because campus sexual assault is the subject of intersecting federal laws, policies, and grant programs, it is a key area for improved interagency collaboration,” the report says.

The report also addresses the prevalence of rape and sexual assault throughout the country. Nearly 22 million women and 1.6 million men have been raped in their lifetimes, with minorities and young people particularly at risk 

Other statistics cited in the report include:

  • Nearly half of female victims were raped before the age of 18, and over 25 percent of male victims were raped before age 10.
  • Most rapes are perpetrated by acquaintances and current or former partners. Only about 14 percent of women and 15 percent of men report being raped by someone they don’t know.
  • Multiracial women are at the greatest risk of rape. About one-third of multiracial women have been raped, as have 27 percent of American Indian and Alaskan Native women. Nineteen percent of white women have been raped, compared to 15 percent of Hispanic women and 22 percent of African American women.

“In order to put an end to this violence, we as a nation must see it for what it is: a crime. Not a misunderstanding, not a private matter, not anyone’s right or any woman’s fault. And bystanders must be taught and emboldened to step in to stop it,” the report reads. “We can only stem the tide of violence if we all do our part.”