Obama Tackles Rape Culture on College Campuses

Written by Tara Culp-Ressler

On Wednesday, President Obama announced a new White House initiative to tackle the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. The president unveiled the results of a new government report on the issue that found that one in five U.S. women have been assaulted in college, and created a task force to come up with policy solutions to make campuses safer.

The president placed the issue in context of a larger push to address sexual violence, noting that his administration has already cracked down on the rapes that occur in the military and expanded the protections in the Violence Against Women Act. He called for reforms to the criminal justice system, like ending the rape kit backlog, to ensure that sexual assault cases are taken more seriously.

But Obama specifically emphasized the sexual assault crisis on college campuses, an issue that has gained prominence over the past several years as college activists have filed dozens of federal complaints against their universities for failing to protect victims. Citing the one in five statistic in the new report, Obama called the sexual assault rate among college students “totally unacceptable.”

The president won praise from progressive activists for framing the issue without resorting to victim-blaming, ultimately emphasizing the ways in which rapists are primarily responsible for preventing rape.

“I want every young man in America to feel some strong peer pressure, in terms of how they’re supposed to behave and treat women,” Obama said on Wednesday. “That starts before they get to college. Those of us who are fathers have an obligation to transmit that information. We can do more to make sure that every man out there — in junior high, high school, and college — understands what’s expected of them, and what it means to be a man, and to intervene if they see someone else acting inappropriately.”

“We need to encourage young people, both men and women, to realize that sexual assault is unacceptable,” the president continued. He is asking the new task force to deliver policy recommendations within 90 days.

Sexual assault prevention groups welcomed the president’s new initiative. “The actions the Obama administration has taken have been remarkable,” Tracey Vitchers, the communications coordinator for Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER), told ThinkProgress. “It was encouraging to hear President Obama speak about campus sexual violence in terms of a culture of consent rather than place the onus of preventing sexual violence solely on young women.”

Still, Vitchers noted that it’s important to push for inclusive policies to combat sexual violence that also take into account male and LGBT students, who are certainly also at risk for assault. And she pointed out that the new task force should partner with the student activists who are already working on the ground.

“For the task force to be effective, it must involve the voices of current college students and recent college graduates. Students, better than anyone, understand what is happening on college campuses in regards to sexual violence and will be an asset in shaping any goals or guidelines the task force will eventually publish for institutions to reference,” Vitchers explained.

Indeed, there are some concrete policies that groups like SAFER are already pushing for on college campuses — like education campaigns to help teach students about consent, healthy relationships, and effective bystander intervention. According to a recent report released by SAFER and the international group V-Day, the vast majority of colleges haven’t implemented these policies yet.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Karen H.
Karen H4 years ago

Oh, David Y, what a wonderful idea! Stake the rapist (naked) over a fire ant hill. That’s the absolute BEST punishment I’ve ever heard. If you’ve ever been attacked by a fire ant (I inadvertently stepped into a nest one day), you know how incredibly painful it is.
Vicky P and Janice T, don’t pick on Obama. He’s doing more singlehandedly to help women than the whole bunch of GOP (expletives deleted) in the House put together. Janice, Obama has two daughters, and he’s willing to do what he can to keep them (and other people’s daughters) safe.
Barbara D is so right about the rape culture and ads telling young men “how to get a woman to say yes” instead of no. Ladies, how many times have you heard, “Oh come on. You know you really want to”? In my younger days I heard it many times, and each time my response was, “Yes, I do, but not with you.”

Barbara DeFratis
Barbara DeFratis4 years ago

Today, I received this email-that promises--"Turn her no into YES--Get the 3 Questions that will make it happen--WATCH THE VIDEO NOW--3 Steps to make her addicted to you--New break through in female psychology reveals......" What this Spam email really reveals is how deep--how very deep the Rape Culture runs and how alive and well the double standard still is. The $2,000,000 question is how much tax payer subsidies did this company receive to be able to put this thing together and to send out so many many emails???

David Youmans
David Youmans4 years ago

Janice T...

I have no idea where you came up with President Obama being a women hater. From what I've seen, he has a Hell of a lot more respect for women than the "Bozos" in the Republican run House, or the various state legislatures, who are spending all their times removing the rights that women have over their own bodies.

It's about time that a president made this a real issue in the public eye. These cowardly rapists have been getting away with their crimes for far too long. It's time for us all to make an issue of the abuse and harassment of the women in this nation, and the world.

I've always felt that any man that would rape a woman is the worst kind of coward, and deserves to be staked out over a fire ant hill... Perhap we can actually stop these worthless wastes of oxygen from committing their crimes...

Annabel Bland
Annabel Bland4 years ago

We should start earlier, in high school.

pam w.
pam w4 years ago

Nothing like a chance to insult the President, is there, Vicky P?

Christina M.
Christina M4 years ago

It helps a lot that these topics are being addressed more, and publicly. Both men and women attack women with unfair standards. Both men and women attack men with unfair standards. It all comes down to judgement. Women are being judged for how they behave. Men are being judged for how they behave. I hope that this movement to end rape culture continues. I hope people won't laugh and ask how a man can be raped in the future. The discussion of topics like this is going to change things. If we continue to talk openly the education will spread and it will make a difference. I'm glad Obama is addressing it. Thank you for sharing this article.

Rose Becke4 years ago

The Colleges must address this as well

Vicky P.
Vicky P4 years ago

Knowing the way Obama deals with things, I'd say he won't do much, it will take a lot of dedication to fix this.

Deborah W.
Deborah W4 years ago

Expand all in the name of rights and freedom, then came the hook-up mentality coupled with the already-existing and widely accepted lack of accountability and responsibility, now comes the outrage ... such hypocracy

JL A4 years ago

Hopefully some model policies and practices will come out of this initiative