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UI officials respond to White House recommendation

BY STACEY MURRAY | APRIL 30, 2014 5:00 AM

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A task force created by President Barack Obama released recommendations Tuesday to colleges across the nation as a way to respond to sexual assault on their campuses.

The task force is co-chaired by Vice President Joe Biden and the White House Council on Women and Girls. It was formed in January.

“Colleges and universities can no longer turn a blind eye or pretend rape and sexual assault doesn’t occur on their campuses,” Biden said in the 20-page report. “We need to provide survivors with more support, and we need to bring perpetrators to more justice, and we need colleges and universities to step up.”

The report is broken down into four parts: identifying problems on college campuses, preventing sexual assault, responding effectively after an assault occurs, and improving the government’s enforcement efforts while making them more transparent.

The first part recommends schools conduct surveys with university students to measure the attitudes on campuses. While the surveys are optional, officials hope to make them mandatory by 2016.

Recommendations also include prevention strategies for universities to utilize, including recruiting men to be a part of the conversation and investing in bystander awareness programs.

The third part of the recommendation focuses on universities responses to sexual assault once it has been committed. The report calls for increased advocacy for victims and improved confidentiality protocols in order to be mindful of victims’ well being.

The final portion of the report focuses on federal transparency on the issue. The government will debut a new website — NotAlone.gov — to give students a “roadmap” to filing complaints. The website will also allow students to type in a zip code and locate local services.  Also, the Department of Education will provide more information to schools on their obligations under Title IX.

UI President Sally Mason applauded the recommendations, pointing to the university’s recent efforts to address the issue.

“I heartily welcome today’s recommendations by the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, and we look forward to supporting their implementation at the University of Iowa,” she said in a statement. “I’m especially pleased that many of the recommendations put forward today align with and reinforce priorities we’ve already established at this campus to combat sexual misconduct.”

Twelve sexual assaults have been reported to UI officials during this academic year. In response to students’ protests and an uptick in the number of sexual-assault reports, Mason implemented a six-point plan.

Under the plan, she has increased funding to Nite Ride, created a Sexual Assault Advisory Committee made up of students, and updated the warning notices sent to the university community following a reported sexual assault.

The topic has been addressed not only on the UI campus this year.

Recent outrage at schools across the nation, such as UMass-Amherst and Vanderbilt University, in Tennessee, contributed to a response from Washington, D.C.

“It’s a very exciting time nationally and locally,” said Monique DiCarlo, the UI sexual misconduct response coordinator. “Our own students’ activism mirrors that and also mirrors the work we’ve been engaging in on our own campus.”

The recommendations could signify a turn in the ways universities address the issue.

“I’m excited about the report,” DiCarlo said. “It provides support and direction for the work we’ve been doing and the work we’re engaged in right now.”

Karla Miller, the director of the Rape Victim Advocacy Program, has been combating sexual assault in Iowa City for more than 30 years. Recently, she has witnessed an increase in local and national efforts.

“I think there have been a lot of steps taken in the last few years … There’s been more institutional progress in the last four or five years than there’s been in decades, I mean ever,” she said.


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