The Common Good

Biden Announces New Efforts to Combat Sexual Assault on College Campuses

Today Vice President Joe Biden announced a series of new initiatives aimed at addressing sexual violence on college campuses and launched NotAlone.gov — a website that pools campus reporting data and points both students and school officials to sexual assault resources.

The administration is also releasing the first report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which was established in January.

Under Title IX, college campuses that receive federal funding are already required to take steps to prevent sexual assault on campus and respond promptly when sexual assault is reported. Further, the Clery Act requires those that receive funding to report their crime statistics and provide policies for prevention. The website NotAlone.gov will be a central repository for these reports and clarify for students their rights under the Clery Act and Title IX.

What is unclear, however, is what has changed for Christian college campuses and other private institutions. As laid out in recent articles by New Republic and Think Progress, these colleges do not receive federal funding, and thus aren't bound by the requirements of the Clery Act, Title IX, or the more recent Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act. While many of them do have programs and initiatives that address sexual assault on campus, too many do not — often skirting rules of transparency. As Sojourners reported last year, for many on these campuses, a hesitancy to talk about sex and confusing theological interpretation of gender roles makes addressing sexual violence that much more complicated.

In speaking with students, former students, and staff at Christian schools across the country, what’s revealed is that education about the realities and effects of sexual violence among college students remains anemic at best.

Through conducting campus climate surveys, researching ways to engage men, providing prevention strategies through training and disciplinary systems, and increasing transparency through efforts like the new website, the administration aims to "turn the tide" of overwhelming statistics — one in five women, and many men, sexually assaulted in college.

As the report points out:

"The action steps and recommendations highlighted in this report are the initial phase of an ongoing plan. … We will also consider how our recommendations apply to public elementary and secondary schools – and what more we can do to help there. Our work continues."

Stay tuned as Sojourners continues to report.

Sandi Villarreal is Web Editor and Director of Online Media for Sojourners. Follow her on Twitter @Sandi. New Site.

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