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White House pushes colleges to crack down on sexual assaults

sexual assault
sexual assault

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House will press U.S. colleges and universities on Tuesday to do more to curb sexual assaults on students while it launches a new website, NotAlone.gov, to help victims find resources and report crimes.

The move comes after a three-month study by a task force established by President Barack Obama in January to help identify ways to protect students from sexual violence.

"Colleges and universities need to face the facts about sexual assault. No more turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn't exist," Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement released on Monday evening.

"We need to give victims the support they need - like a confidential place to go - and we need to bring the perpetrators to justice," he said.

The White House said one in five women is sexually assaulted while attending college, most often in her first or second year of study. Usually the perpetrator is known to her and more often than not the assault goes unreported.

The new recommendations include encouraging schools to conduct a "climate survey" to identify the scope of the problem on their respective campuses, creating confidential places for victims to seek support, and initiating training programs for school officials who work with victims.

The website will provide resources for students including hotline numbers for mental health services and data on how to file complaints of abuse.

Administration officials told reporters on a conference call that a wide range of colleges and universities participated in the process that led to the recommendations.

"They are looking for guidance, they are looking for help," a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call, referring to U.S. colleges.

Women played a critical role in electing Obama in 2012 and remain an important part of his political base.

The president is trying to energize that base ahead of congressional elections in November, when Democrats risk losing control of the U.S. Senate to Republicans. Earlier this month Obama launched two executive actions aimed at helping reduce a pay gap between male and female workers.

The White House noted that sexual assault on college campuses is not directed solely at women. Men, to a lesser extent, are victims as well, it said.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Ken Wills)

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