White House making new efforts to prevent sexual violence on school campuses
April 5th, 2011
11:26 AM ET

White House making new efforts to prevent sexual violence on school campuses

By CNN White House Producer Becky Brittain

WASHINGTON (CNN) – “Rape is rape is rape,” declared Vice President Joe Biden Monday at the University of New Hampshire, “And the sooner universities make that clear, the sooner we'll begin to make progress on campuses,” he said, announcing new guidance that will go to all K-12 schools, colleges and universities to address the growing number of sexual assaults.

Ayanna Pressley attended the event – and praised Vice President Biden and the Obama administration for speaking out.

It’s an issue the Boston City Councilwoman knows all too well. Pressley, 37, was a victim of sexual assault while she was a 19-year old college student at Boston University.

Like so many other victims, she was reluctant to report the crime at the time of the assault and along with other events happening in her life, it led to her dropping out of school.

One in five women report being sexually assaulted on college campuses and the large majority knew their attackers. The city councilwoman says she fit that statistic.

As she told her story at a recent city council meeting, Pressley said it was surprising how emotional she was in mentioning the incident years later. But she says she owes it to the millions of women like her who have been victims of rape on college and university campuses. 

“I felt an obligation to the millions of women who suffer in silence and I wanted to put a face on the issue, so people cannot think about this abstractly,” she told CNN in an interview.

She believes making rape victims aware of their rights is important but changes should begin with changing college campuses.

“The larger issue is the culture of college- the drinking, the partying- there is a very low threshold for what is inappropriate behavior. It creates this environment that can be too tolerant and sometimes even hostile,” she said.

The White House is making new efforts to help prevent sexual violence on school campuses.  A 19-page report released at the Biden event discusses efforts schools can take to prevent sexual violence but also gives direction in dealing with rape victims knowing their civil rights.

Vice President Biden said. “It's not sufficient to have criminal enforcement. We must at every single level of our society make clear the moral disapprobation of society at every level for such behavior.”

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that most schools would like to believe that they are immune from sexual assaults but this directive will help them address the issue of sexual violence on their campuses.

“We think the overwhelming majority of colleges and universities and K-12 schools want to do the right thing and they might not quite know how, may not have thought things all the way through and these issues are often tough ones for folks to put on the table,” Duncan said. “We are trying to be very clear, very transparent and our hope is through dissemination of the great information that we can significantly reduce the number of these incidents.”

Duncan added that reports of rape are underreported because victims grapple with a range of emotions from personal shame and guilt to weighing the risks of social isolation and judgment. 

Pressley says the environment on campuses will improve with the partnership of college and university officials and government leaders.

“There’s much work that needs to be done to foster a culture and a climate on these campuses that says zero tolerance and a lot of that comes from raising consciousness and comes from education,” Pressley added.

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soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Pretzel Logic

    Some how, some way, the Republicans will find fault with this, just because it came from the Obama Administration.

    April 5, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • AlGaN

      No the libs will blame sexual violence on Palin.

      April 5, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
      • J.Richter

        Did that make sense to you after you read it before pressing the Enter key?

        April 5, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
      • phoenix86

        Understandable to a certain extent. Liberal women are generally physically repulsive. Who'd want to touch them anyway?

        April 5, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
      • Tempe51

        PHX, rape is NOT about looks, it is about violence against women. Grow up!

        April 5, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • phoenix86

      Don't think so. Libtards generally condone sexual violence, as they sure don't prosecute it.

      April 5, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
      • Pretzel Logic

        Classy as always, Phoenix.

        April 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
    • como1

      This is a state and local issue. We have a government heading toward a shutdown and bankrupcy. The focus should be on that. The other focus should be on the middle East Muslim countries and Central Africa. What a waste of federal government time micromanaging local and state laws. There is your conxervative complaint.

      April 5, 2011 at 2:03 pm |
      • Katie

        Your conservative complaint would have far more of a leg to stand on if the conservatives weren't currently trying to legislate abortion and marriage within the United States. These issues are not the economy nor are they the military endeavors in the Middle East. "Do as I say but not as I do" seems to be the Republican motto in this country. It's repulsive.

        April 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  2. phoenix86

    Biden should know. He and Obama have been raping the taxpayer for the last 2 years.

    April 5, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  3. Dean

    "This is my finger. It's smarter than I am."

    April 5, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
  4. Larry L

    It's interesting to see a few right-wingers stretching this subject into a political issue. I'm particularly amused by the comment about the appearance of "liberal women". I'd be tempted to assume the person making the comment finds greater appeal in "liberal men". Regardless, this sort of political hatred indicates a great number of Americans are so filled with hate they've become unable to apply logic to any scenario. That level of brainwashing can only come from a constant ingestion of hate radio and Fox News unsubstantiated sound bites.

    April 5, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  5. Sockness Monster

    Angry 6 year olds use words like "libtard".
    Makes them feel tuff behind the keyboard.
    Sarah Palin while running Alaska
    had rape victims pay for the rape kits.

    April 5, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
    • Gaylon Barrow

      This is a downright lie. You Liberals, Obama supporters are taking this too far. You say anything and are the ones doing these thingsl. Look up what you say before you open your ugly mouth. There is no such rule in Alaska for the victim paying for kits. Look it up on scopes. You should be tried like Obama for being a liar.

      April 5, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
      • Marcus

        Actually, Gaylon is in part correct.
        When she was mayor of Wasilla Palin did made the victims of a series of crimes (including rape) pay for the tests that could help the police to capture the perpetrators, claiming that the town had 'no money' for it (but to build that gym...).

        April 5, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  6. Gaylon Barrow

    The only thing these rapist will understand is passing a law making rape a death penalty offense. Implement it the sooner the better. Don't give them chances to apeal, apeal, apeal. I'M dang tired of what has been allowed into our schools. To prevent gangs from forming one must seperate and classify to prevent and protect our children. Sounds like socialism, it is? But we have been driven by the ignorant who think they can do anything and walk away. BE DARNED IF THEY DON'T BECAUSE OUR LAW IS AFRAID TO PROSECUTE.

    April 5, 2011 at 1:38 pm |
  7. williefloyd

    Pretzel logic-so right. The Reps. are so anti-education I'm sure they will find some way to connect this with their criticisms. Raping us with taxes??? Have you not heard we have paid less taxes since sometime in the 50s?? Pay attention and state facts!! Assuming you actually know one.

    April 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm |
  8. williefloyd

    Strange it was all over the AK papers that she did in fact make victims pay for rape kits. Try Factcheck.org.

    April 5, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
  9. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Rapist come from all ethnic groups, whether they're rich, black/white or poor with one thing in mind to rape and torture women, a rapist is a rapist and must have stronger penalties.

    April 5, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  10. Tempe51

    Our young women NEED to be educated on violence against them and I applaud the White House for bringing this out in the open. Rape does not know political affiliation, race, creed, or even gender. It is anger and violence against someone that you deem weaker than you. We all need to educate our young women to be aware.

    April 5, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Katie

      It's WOMEN that need education? How about we educate MEN to understand that YOU DO NOT RAPE. Rape is NEVER ACCEPTABLE. Making it a woman's responsibility to "be aware" that rape happens doesn't solve a darned thing. It is the MEN of the world that need to be educated how to be respectful of others!

      April 6, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  11. Marcus

    Well GAYLON ... perhaps we should adopt the muslim world's punishment for rape ... castration. would that suit you? A neo-con like you wouldn't like to embrace ANYTHING from ISLAM, right?

    April 5, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  12. shannon

    OMG, we actually have a VP. I don't think I've seen him since the elections.

    April 5, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
  13. Larry L

    In regards to the rape kit challenge I checked snopes.com and got nothing. Factcheck.com and it appears that her Wasilla Police Chief did in fact charge women for rape kits while she was Mayor of Wasilla.

    April 5, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  14. Liz Carter in Georgia

    Oh my goodness! I just know nobody could ever claim that they didn't know that we had a Vice President! We've certainly seen and heard from BIDEN on many more occasions than we did the last Vice President. He stayed in the corner, in the back, in the dark! I thought he worked out of his 'bunker'! The longest time I can remember laying eyes on him through the media, was on the last 'inauration day', when they rolled him out of the WHITEHOUSE in a wheelchair. Within the next 2 weeks, he was up berating OBAMA!

    April 5, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  15. Proffy

    Could we have some dialogue on the possibility of not allowing males over the age of 12 out alone after sunset. A contingent of 5 women chaperones would be required if a male over the age of 12 left his domicile between sunset and sunrise. At least we wouldn't then be putting all the blame and effort on victims instead of on the perpetrators.

    April 5, 2011 at 11:10 pm |