White House Launches Task Force on College Sexual Assault - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

White House Launches Task Force on College Sexual Assault

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MISSOULA -

A report from the White House shows 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted during their college career, and many of the perpetrators are never prosecuted.

That statistic prompted President Obama to launch a national task force aimed at curbing rapes and other crimes on college campuses.

The White House report shows sexual assault is a particular problem on college campuses, where victims are often attacked while under the influence by someone they know. 

Officials at the University of Montana said they've already improved the way they handle sexual assaults, and hope to make their progress part of a national model.

President Obama said the national task force will give colleges a set of best practices on handling sexual assault and hold them accountable for implementing those guidelines.

"When a young woman drops out of school after being attacked, that's not just a loss for her, that's a loss for our country," President Obama said.

The task force aims to improve law enforcement techniques for dealing with sexual assault victims, encourage men to speak out against sexual violence, and educate the public on the topic. 

Vice President of Communications at UM, Peggy Kuhr, said after the Department of Justice investigated the university, they've made changes to policies and provided training on handling assault to staff. 

"Looking at how bystanders can help, if they see a fellow student or someone who might be getting themselves into a situation that could prove to be tricky," Kuhr said.

They've also created a mandatory tutorial on responding to or reporting sexual assault for all incoming freshmen.

It's a model Kuhr said more than a dozen universities, including Vanderbilt University, have already mirrored. 

"So, they've basically, with our okay, used our materials and applied it to their university," she said.

Kuhr said they'll continue updated and improving policies as the White House task force makes official recommendations.

"We'll be curious to see if there are great ideas that we are not working on, because if there are, we should be looking at them."

Montana State University updated its policy on sexual assault in 2012. Now, it better defines what consent is, and all reports go through the Title IX coordinator. 

The report shows the Department of Justice will also focus on increasing arrests and convictions of sex offenders. 

College survivors of rape suffer higher rates of PTSD, depression and substance abuse. 

On average, only 12% of students report assaults to law enforcement.

 

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