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U.S. President Barack Obama answers questions after a meeting with Congressional leaders in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington March 1, 2013. Obama pressed the U.S. Congress on Friday to avoid a government shutdown when federal spending auth
President Barack Obama is taking aim at sexual assault on college campuses. The White House is releasing a report Wednesday citing lifelong health effects for victims of rape and  saying that "1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted at college but that only 12 percent of student victims report the assault," the Associated Press reports. To combat this:
Obama is giving the task force of administration officials 90 days to come up with recommendations for colleges to prevent and respond to sexual assault, increase public awareness of each school's track record and enhance coordination among federal agencies to hold schools accountable if they don't confront the problem. [...]

The report also declares that the criminal justice response to sexual assault is too often inadequate and lays out a goal of increasing arrest, prosecution and conviction rates without any specific targets. The report blames police bias and a lack of training to investigate and prosecute sex crimes for low arrest rates and says the federal government should promote training and help police increase testing of DNA evidence collected from victims.

Such an effort is important and overdue, but also a minefield. Colleges already try to cover up rape on campus in order to evade reporting requirements that might dissuade future students from attending; if there's a crackdown they will seek other ways to make their records look better, and, because it's difficult, actually cutting down on sexual assault is unlikely to be the main thing they try. Also, any discussion of how campus drinking or drug culture—or anything else—are factors in sexual assault has to focus squarely on rapists, not victims. A woman doesn't get raped because she had a drink, a woman gets raped because a man—perhaps under the influence of alcohol or drugs, perhaps not—decided to be a rapist.

As in the military, where Obama is also calling for greater focus on sexual assault prevention, the response to sexual assault at colleges is often more about what leaders think will be best for the institution, not about justice. That has to change—but by definition institutional cultures of self-protection are hard to change.

Originally posted to Laura Clawson on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 07:09 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This strikes me as a very constructive (17+ / 0-)

    action by the president. While most of the laws dealing with sexual assault and the prosecution systems are at the state level, the president has real power of persuasion.  When he got off the fence on gay rights it made a difference.

    •  Due respect, let me add.... (4+ / 0-)

      How does this help democrats in 2014?

      1.)  Solidifies democrats bona fides with women, in stark contrast, to let's say, trans-vaginal ultrasounds.
      2.)  Encourages (young) women to come out and vote.
      3.)  Smooths some edges with men who have daughters.

      And what was last weeks 'bone' to young voters?

      "Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol."

      This is part of the ground game needed to get young people to vote in 2014 midterms.

      I'll quote Kos, "When we vote, we win."

      •  Please no (7+ / 0-)

        please please please dont turn preventing rape into a GOTV platform.  Even if it works it is not something we want to do.  Let the idiots on the other side make rape political.  

        It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

        by ksuwildkat on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 11:15:18 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  you. You are why I'm proud to be here. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          seasidesally

          I don't know you are but you are.

          http://www.actblue.com/page/accountabilitynow If the dnc dscc or dccc send you mailers, send that link back to them and tell them you won't send money to people who defend democrats who betray progressive principals!

          by daeros on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 11:56:20 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I dont understand what you mean (0+ / 0-)

          Why shouldn't we support justice for victims?

          Thats what Obama is pushing.  Messaging is aligned with human values, and the overwhelming Democratic base.

          Give me a good reason why this isn't a resonating message?

          --
          Make sure everyone's vote counts: Verified Voting

          by sacrelicious on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 01:20:06 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Im all for justice (4+ / 0-)

            But the day we view issues like rape as CAMPAIGN TOOLS is the day we become evil.  

            How does this help democrats in 2014?
            Who the hell cares if it helps our election prospects?  We should address the issue because it needs addressing.

            It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

            by ksuwildkat on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 02:07:50 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sorry, this isn't about RAPE - it's about JUSTICE (0+ / 0-)
              Who the hell cares if it helps our election prospects?  We should address the issue because it needs addressing.
              Sorry, this is a political blog you're posting this on.  Political angle is fair-game on any discussion, especially if the President has brought it to the fore.

              Or are you just trying to troll?

              --
              Make sure everyone's vote counts: Verified Voting

              by sacrelicious on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 02:54:37 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  soooooo (0+ / 0-)

                taking one of the most personal and most damaging violent crimes, one that has horrible impacts on its victims and turning that into a political tool is ok? Not in my book.

                It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

                by ksuwildkat on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 03:17:07 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

  •  Top of the list for colleges (28+ / 0-)

    Stop trying to convince victims not to report to the police.  While there are things that need to be handled at the campus end (eg, make sure both parties aren't sitting in the same class while the case is winding its way through the system), a college administration is not adequate to deal with a violent crime.

    Let's hope this doesn't devolve into another round of "helpful tips for women to not get yourself raped."  there's been real success with focusing on offenders and bystanders, like the Don't Be That Guy campaign.

    I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not on his payroll. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

    by Tara the Antisocial Social Worker on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 08:03:13 AM PST

  •  This is a terrific issue (14+ / 0-)

    for the President to bring up. It's a serious problem and one that needs more awareness - and working to solve it will have beneficial ripple effects throughout society IF the colleges make a good faith effort.

    On the cynical side, I can't wait to see how much damage the Republicans do themselves with their kneejerk opposition to it.

  •  Excellent points, Laura (9+ / 0-)

    Very well said.  Institutions need to be held accountable, not "partnered with" to develop a really good set of talking points to give incoming freshman.

    And just for snark, I'd point out to the president that he's already got the solution to the problem of victims not reporting sexual assaults - just have the NSA run a key word search of all of their electronic communications.

  •  So he can't do anything about what he can do (3+ / 0-)

    something about, i.e., sexual assault in the military, but he's going to lecture college Presidents about it instead?  Oh, wow, that will help.  /snark

    The effort needs to come from alumni.  Instead of funding the sacred cults of sports thugs and frat bullies, we should insist on a safe environment for all students.  

    •  This President simply (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      allergywoman, daeros, poco

      cannot satisfy you, no matter what he does or says.

      So, he cannot stop sexual assault in the military which he should be able to do with a snap of his fingers, and that means he should not meddle in this issue of college assaults?

      He also cannot save the planet so he should just not bother with mileage standards, right?

      This President has certain constituents that he simply cannot reach...TeaParty folks,and some others, not a group I would ever want to be lumped in with...but they are there.

  •  When political correctness hurts (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenbell, sacrelicious, lina
    Also, any discussion of how campus drinking or drug culture—or anything else—are factors in sexual assault has to focus squarely on rapists, not victims.
    Before our daughters went off to school, we spent time talking about the presence of bad people -- even those who seemed like good people -- doing bad things on campus.  We talked about  situations that are most likely to attract them and to make the girls more vulnerable than they might be ordinarily.

    Nobody has a right to rape my daughters under any circumstances.  On the other hand, I am not going to deny them the right to be careful or the knowledge required to do so. I absolutely counsel them to avoid dangerous situations.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 09:16:14 AM PST

    •  Can't agree with you (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      allergywoman, poco, splashy

      that Laura was being "politically correct" (well past time to retire that phrase) or that it's a harmful view.

      Of COURSE we should counsel our daughters (and sons) on how to avoid unsafe situations.  Of course, of course, of course.  And drinking is one way to make yourself more vulnerable to someone with bad intentions.

      But if the message of some public awareness campaign reads something like, "Hey, little lady, don't get drunk and you won't get raped" - now, that will do real harm.

      •  I agree, but both approaches are needed. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        greenbell

        I lock my car and I care a whole lot more about my daughters than I do about my car.

        Rape whistles, awareness, self defense are all part of the mix.
        Hell, my oldest daughter recently posted a picture of things she carries to school -- all pink, including her pepper spray.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 09:34:44 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Oh come on (8+ / 0-)

      You either know or ought to know damn well what is meant by the statement that the focus ought to be on the perpetrators and not the victims. It doesn't mean parents or friends straight up ignoring the potential for dangerous people, it means that we focus as a community and a nation not on what victims can do to protect themselves, but on how we can end the predatory behaviours of the criminals.

      It is analogous to saying that the conversation on fraud ought not to be on how victims can avoid scams, but on how the nation can prevent scams. Except rape culture means that victims of sexual assault and women generally are always being told what to do, how to act, etc. to avoid sexual assault. Which is to say, there is 0 risk of women not being aware of the possibilty, and while perhaps a discussion of warning signs and red flags might be useful between a parent and a son or daughter, the president's commission should focus on the ending of rape by rapists.

      Also, as a sidenote, anyone who uses the phrase "political correctness" is, I think rightly, often written off as an ignorant twit. I'd avoid the term in the future, as it almost always means "having to worry about the effect my words have on others, particularly people of color, women, and other minorities".

      •  Why do I know that? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        greenbell

        Also, as a sidenote, I would much rather you write me off as an ignorant twit than cave to pressure to censor my expession.

        "Political correctness" is a term too descriptive and too useful to give up. Certainly not for the sake of political correctness.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 09:37:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I think you don't know the definition of "censor" (2+ / 0-)

          Or are you the sort of person who thinks being asked not to say the n word is censorship?

          •  Do you prefer self-censor? (0+ / 0-)

            If that makes it easier for you to swallow, I'm ok with that.

            You should, however, learn what censorship really means and what it requires. It doesn't require the government or any kind of legal authority.

            I believe that your statement:

            Also, as a sidenote, anyone who uses the phrase "political correctness" is, I think rightly, often written off as an ignorant twit.
            was intended as friendly advice, but it could be seen as a threat to deprive me of something I value if I didn't start using the term, or, at the very least, an attempt to make me stop using the term for fear of losing something I value.  Both cases easily fit the definition of censorship.

            FWIW, I'm already well-established as an ignorant twit on this site, so no harm, no foul.

            LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

            by dinotrac on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 09:50:06 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  No (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Batya the Toon

              My point is that the underlying belief structures which would lead one to honestly use the phrase "political correctness" are disgusting and vile, and any person using them sincerely is thus a twit. Being called out on those disgusting behaviours is not censorship, anymore than me telling an anti-gay marriage advocate that comparisons of beastiality to homosexuality are made only by bigoted asses is censorship. I don't want you to stifle, I want you to think. Seriously though, a threat? I'm not saying "nice respect there, shame if something would happen to it." Straight up, you lose respect when you sound like an ass, that ain't a threat, that's a statement of fact. If that's what qualifies as a threat to you, I think you will have a rough time in politics.

              As to "why do I know that", I assume- perhaps generously- that anyone on a blog devoted to politics knows that when a diary is written on a president's comission on preventing rape, and mentions that "any conversation about...", they are clearly referring not to private conversations between people seeking advice, but to what is often referred to as a "national dialogue", and more generally that news stories, presidents' recommendations, political remarks, and public discussion should not focus on what victims can do but how to stop perpetrators. The context should make this apparent, as it would be an odd aside.

              Or do you genuinely think that there is anyone, anyone at all, who believes that informing young people about consent, predators, and reality based information for how to protect themselves and otherwise support them in our rape culture ought to be forbidden. Because I believe this is a reality based community.

              Otherwise, you've infuriated me, because you have come into this thread motivated enough to point out that "parents should talk to their children to warn them of predators" is some sort of revelation, useful, or germane to the topic at hand, using right wing buzzwords, and demonstrating a spectacular lack of awareness. Made all the more worse, because I think you genuinely want to help make he world a better place for your daughters, but you don't see how focusing on such a minor quibble misses the real point, which is that I imagine you've spent some time providing your daughters with advice on how to avoid rapists, but that collectively as a society, we spend very little time thinking of how to avoid making rapists. And when we begin to broach that subject, you are motivated enough to tell us that a miserly interpretation of the post in question would be foolish, but evidently not motivated enough to do anything further to actually consider this other side of the equation.

      •  Exactly (6+ / 0-)

        The very idea that any college-aged female needs to be reminded of the ever-present danger of sexual assault is ridiculous.  

        What they need is to be reminded that if it happens to them, it's not their fault.  If it happens to them, they should report it, stand up for themselves and all the other potential victims, live without shame.

    •  It is a matter of context. (6+ / 0-)

      I doubt that anybody would question the notion that you as  a parent have the responsibility to provide your daughters with the information that they need to protect themselves. What feminists are objecting to is policy discussions about the issue of rape were men come along and think that the entire focus of the discussion should be solely on the responsibility of women to protect themselves from assault.

      The reality is that most parents do what you did. By the time young women go off to college they are likely to be reasonably well informed about the necessity and means of self protection. The problem with mansplaining arises when men seem to assume that they are just too stupid to understand it unless they explain it to them.  

      •  Yes. Men are the problem (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Richard Lyon

        I agree completely.

        The rapist is always the cause of a rape.
        Because men are such a problem, I want my daughters to be vigilant and to watch out for themselves.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 09:54:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  absolutely (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dinotrac, HumeanSkeptic

      There are actions that we take that increase our risks.  Adults must communicate to growing children that they must take responsibility for their own safety.  For instance, when someone is shot we must dissect the causes of the shooting.  Were they in a place, like bar, where shooting would be more likely.  Did they present themselves as victim, perhaps wearing a 'shoot me' shirt.  Were they talking on their phone instead of paying attention.  Were they showing large amounts of money.

      The problem is that all too often these safety issues are expanded in victim responsibility.

      Here is the politically incorrect conversation I would want parents to have with their boys.  You do not have to stick your penis into every available vagina.  You can walk away.  You can say no.  Just because there is an exposed vagina does not mean the human individual attached to it wants to be penetrated.  If you choose to penetrate, it is a choice that you have made, and the human may choose to say did so without express permission.  This is why it is better if you do so only within the confines of some relationship, for instance a friend, in an environment that is safe and consensual for both of you.  Therefore getting a girl drunk is counter indicated.

      This is extremely politically incorrect in a world where sex is limited to someone we love, which tends to push individuals to have sex with strangers or the drunk acquaintance carried into the bushes at a party.

      •  Some parents do that conversation with their (0+ / 0-)

        boys.

        I don't know how may because I am privy only to the parents of boys that I know.  I have only daughters, so my focus has been there.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 10:20:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  A former campus "security" officer.. (10+ / 0-)

    I worked at a small, all female college as a "security" officer for almost 2 years.  

    Colleges already try to cover up rape on campus in order to evade reporting requirements that might dissuade future students from attending; if there's a crackdown they will seek other ways to make their records look better, and, because it's difficult, actually cutting down on sexual assault is unlikely to be the main thing they try.
    This statement is spot-on.  What she is referring to is the Cleary Act which forces (and I do mean forces) colleges to disclose their statistics on certain types of crime to the public.

    I saw these types of things first hand, so what I always tell people is this: remember, campus police/security are NOT there to protect you, they are there to protect the college.

    The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy. -Charles de Montesquieu

    by dawgflyer13 on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 09:17:55 AM PST

  •  This issue needs to be in the spotlight. (2+ / 0-)

    The "boys will be boys" sub-culture has to end.  Too many people have suffered because others have been silent and complacent.  It gets tiring hearing about how practically nothing gets done and the victim ends up paying more in terms of well-being, reputation and self-respect than the attackers.

    It is about time.

    "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." --Benjamin Franklin

    by politicalceci on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 09:17:57 AM PST

  •  I am done with words! I need action! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    politicalceci

    Good first step that probably should have been taken in his first term.
    Let's hold the perps accountable and get some stiff laws on the books.
    Peace and Blessings!

    For those abused, war torn and blood-soaked regions of the world: due to our apathy, our need for cheap shit, and our wars on terror and drugs, we apologize for the inconvenience.

    by Penny GC on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 09:24:09 AM PST

  •  a culture of rape, a culture of mindlessness (2+ / 0-)
    Colleges already try to cover up rape on campus in order to evade reporting requirements that might dissuade future students from attending; if there's a crackdown they will seek other ways to make their records look better, and, because it's difficult, actually cutting down on sexual assault is unlikely to be the main thing they try.
    The irony is that all colleges have the exact same problem. If they all reported accurately, the number of sexual assaults would shoot through the roof at every college in the country. But no one wants to be the first to start that trend. It would be a great triumph for us all if the President can do it.

    Colleges should do everything and anything in their power to increase awareness and reduce sexual assault. But we must acknowledge that this is far bigger than the colleges that are affected by it. And it's not reasonable to expect them to be able to fix a problem our entire society remains adamant about ignoring.

    Just like binge drinking and drug use; it's a cultural issue. Our children are acting in the mold we set. And until our entire society can talk maturely about sex and sexuality, until we can think rationally about alcohol and drugs, we will continue to see extremes of behavior as kids go from the proscriptive environs of home into the free-for-all that is co-ed life.

  •  Binge drinking is a huge correlation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sacrelicious

    I'm dismayed at how many young folk seem to think it's acceptable, even normal, to get wasted every night.

  •  He's got 2 daughters going to college soon. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sacrelicious

    He has a vested interest in making college safer for women.

    "For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it." - President Barack Obama, Second Inaugural Address, January 21, 2013.

    by surfermom on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 10:00:52 AM PST

    •  Yes, this is a very good thing (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassandra Waites, Batya the Toon

      As someone who just recently went from Dad of 1 daughter to 3 daughters, I heartily approve Obama's "self-interest" here, as does, I imagine many fathers with daughter(s).

      That said, I think attacking rape culture is also part of the Democratic message.  

      Unreported rapes are bound up in a culture of fear and shame and victim blaming - that feeds directly into the GOP messaging.

      --
      Make sure everyone's vote counts: Verified Voting

      by sacrelicious on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 01:27:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's about time (0+ / 0-)

    Local prosecutors should come on campus accompanied by local cops in full dress and give a talk in a stadium to the effect that rape is a crime, and that if you get convicted your life is going to be ruined and you are going away to prison, and no bullshit, and that the cops take such charges with extreme seriousness and they have the backing of the office of the prosecutor, and that complaints are to be taken to the sexual assault liason office where female officers will do the intake including the rape kit, and where people will be questioned and where decisions will be made as to whether to prosecute, and all of the nonsense about resolving serious penal offenses on campus by some Board or other is hereby over, because that, ladies and gentlemen, is and always has been our job and our job alone, and that job includes--should you be convicted--putting you away for a long, long time.

  •  Which military commander should be fired? (0+ / 0-)

    Oh sorry, I thought that was your default question for all things regarding sexual assault.

    Of course all of this ignores the basic facts of the vast majority of rape cases - they are hard to bring to trial and hard to win.  Few witnesses, lack of evidence, reluctant reporting, drugs and alcohol, prior relationships and a victim blaming culture.  Got a fix for those?  Of course not because that is hard.

    A woman doesn't get raped because she had a drink, a woman gets raped because a man—perhaps under the influence of alcohol or drugs, perhaps not—decided to be a rapist.
    Good to know that as a man I can only be a rapist and not a victim.

    It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it. Robert E. Lee

    by ksuwildkat on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 11:13:38 AM PST

  •  Not all rapists are men, nor victims women. (0+ / 0-)
    A woman doesn't get raped because she had a drink, a woman gets raped because a man—perhaps under the influence of alcohol or drugs, perhaps not—decided to be a rapist.
    Not all rapists are man and not all victims are women. Strongly gendering statements like this are just as bad as statements blaming the victims or denying the problem.
  •  I See. (0+ / 0-)

    The problem is:

    Sometimes I wonder if the rape culture narrative is nothing more than a cover for bad female decision making.
    along with:
    If a woman pulls the LMR cock tease game with you . . .
    not to mention:
    Time to put your big girl panties on.
    which, ew ew ew ew ew ew eeeeew.

    Or, as South Park's Wayne-D puts it, "Bitches gotta stop trippin', man. Cuz bitches be trippin' all the time, man."

    "Seeing Leela fly off the Hexadecapus and crash through the moon dome and survive inside a stuffed animal by breathing a balloon was a dose of reality." Farewell, Futurama--I will avenge you!

    by IamGumby on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 12:58:45 PM PST

    •  Sorry for the double post. (0+ / 0-)

      My first one did not seem to post, but it eventually appeared again. On the plus side, I got to quote Wayne-D, one of South Park's most hilarious ancillary characters, twice.

      "Seeing Leela fly off the Hexadecapus and crash through the moon dome and survive inside a stuffed animal by breathing a balloon was a dose of reality." Farewell, Futurama--I will avenge you!

      by IamGumby on Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 01:14:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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