White house enacts task force to combat sexual assault on campuses nationwide

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President Barack Obama acknowledged sexual assault issues on campuses across the country and took a step forward in finding a solution to the problem.

Obama announced a new task force Jan. 22 intended to help educational institutions prevent and respond to sexual violence. An article, written by Carrie Dann at NBC News, said the task force will beef up the ability of federal agencies to hold schools accountable if they aren’t addressing problems.

According to an article published by The New York Times titled ““Obama seeks to raise awareness of rape on campus,” Obama’s task force has 90 days to reinforce the best practices for institutions to follow when confronted with a sexual assault on campus. The task force should also keep in mind the institution’s existing procedures.

“The task force — which includes the attorney general and the secretaries of the Education, Health and Human Services and Interior Departments — was also asked for proposals to raise awareness of colleges’ records regarding assaults and officials’ responses, and to see that federal agencies get involved when officials do not confront problems on their campus,” the article said.

According to rain.org, one out of six American women have been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, and 3 percent of American men have experienced or completed rape in their lifetime. 

Charity Winsor, a junior English major from Pocatello, Idaho and Women’s Resource Center intern, said in order for this force to have any affect, students need to report the assault.

Winsor said this task force is not geared toward just men or women — it is geared toward everybody. She is excited that the force has been created, but she believes there need to be more steps to solve the problem.

“Rather than thinking of us as men or women, we need to think of each other as equal human beings,” Winsor said. “Come up with as many laws you want, but it’s not going to change the mentality and the way we treat others … There has to be way more than just one thing that’s changing. It needs to be our whole society. It’s not just men; it’s everybody.” 

Tim Eicher, a family and consumer science associate professor and instructor for the self-defense class on campus, said the force has the potential to help men become more educated on the topic.

“I’d love to see programs for male students,” Eicher said. “You see gender studies focused on feminism and female issues, which is pretty common, but you don’t see much on educating and training men.” 

And although the force has been created, Eicher said Dixie has already taken those steps to promote awareness on campus by the Take Back the Night club and self-defense classes taught at Dixie. He also said the multiple sources that created awareness, such as the radio and news articles, created the opportunity to solve the problem of sexual assault on campus.

“I think all environments are at-risk to a degree, but I think Dixie has done a fairly decent job to combat this and get the word out,” Eicher said.

Winsor said this force will not change the campus overnight. She assured that if a student has been sexually assaulted, whether he or she is male or female, the student needs to report it because knowledge is power and silence is not.

“If you feel that you’ve been sexually assaulted, you need to let it out,” Winsor said. “Women think they need to keep quiet, and men do even more. That’s how the perpetrator wins is by victim silence.”

There are many resources on campus to do so, including the Women’s Resource Center, at 435-879-4489, and DSU campus security, at 435-652-7515.