New Efforts to Cut Sexual Assault on College Campuses

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Jared Roberts

CARBONDALE -- The nation's colleges and universities are being asked to do more about sexual assaults on campus. The Obama Administration says schools have let victims fall through the cracks.

Back in January, the White House formed a task force to look into a crime that often goes unreported. Many victims know their attacker, so it can be difficult to reach out for help. A new report calls on colleges to make it easier for students to find the right resources.
 
"One in five of everyone of those young women who is dropped off for the first day of school, before they finish school will be assaulted," said Vice President Joe Biden. 
 
On Tuesday, Biden released a plan to combat sexual assault. The task force unveiled a new ad campaign targeted at men.
 
The plan also lays out new recommendations for schools. That includes making sure confidential help is more readily available. It also pushes colleges to conduct surveys to find just how often the crime takes place.
 
"They have a moral responsibility to know what's happening on their campus," said Biden. 
 
The developments are being closely watched by SIU Dean of Students Katie Semershein.
 
"We want our students to feel supported," said Sermershein. "We want our students to know that there are people that care."
    
The University already works to meet federal guidelines. One of those mandates includes listing the number of sexual assaults on their website. That report currently shows that between 2010 and 2012, there were 17 reports on campus. 
 
You can view that information here: http://www.dps.siu.edu/Documents/2013%20ASR.pdf
 
"It'd be naive to think we didn't have issues here," said Sermershein. "But we stand ready to assist any of our students."
     
Freshman orientation classes cover safety topics and what to do if you become a victim. SIU staff also undergo training to become Campus Security Authorities.
 
"That person will help them get the right services and the support they need," said Sermershein. 
     
Sermershein feels past attempts at surveys haven't given the university very good results.However, she'll be looking over the latest report for new ideas.
 
"See what the federal government comes out with as far as some examples," said Sermershein. 
 
Right now, the recommendations are optional. The plan is to make surveys mandatory by 2016. The task force is also launching a new website, NotAlone.gov, that can point victims to local resources and data on sexual assaults.
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