Last week, President Barack Obama brought major national attention to cases of sexual misconduct, particularly on college campuses, with the creation of a new task force, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The task force is intended to help schools better avert and respond to such incidents.
“My hope is the federal policy initiatives will inspire colleges into addressing this issue. I am extremely grateful to be a part of Swarthmore’s continued efforts in directly addressing these issues and this will only assist in our prevention efforts on campus,” Patricia Flaherty Fischette, the interim title IX coordinator, said.
Alongside the release of a report from the White House’s report regarding women and girls, which detailed the physical, mental and economic repercussions of sexual assault, Obama announced that the task force would, in particular, seek to help colleges and universities prevent and respond to sexual assault reports, as well as hold them accountable for failing to do so.
According to Obama’s report, nearly one in five women and one in 71 men have been raped in their lifetimes, and campus perpetrators are often repeat offenders. Among the seven percent of college men who admitted to committing rape or attempted rape, more than half said they had committed multiple offenses.
Fischette, is pleased with Obama’s suggestions, and is hopeful that the initiatives will help make positive change on college campuses. She believes that in making sexual assault a priority at the federal level, that schools will continue to address and improve their response to sexual violence on college campuses.
“I hope this policy initiative will raise the general awareness about the prevalence of sexual violence and hopefully decrease rape supportive-myths and damaging cultural norms,” she said.
While she feels that the hour of the initiatives is late, she is nonetheless relieved that that they are taking place at the Federal level at all.
“I think the statistics for attempted sexual violence on college campuses are horrific, one in five females, and so I think it is coming too late, however, I am happy and grateful this issue is being addressed,” she said.
Fischette believes that sexual assault policies on college campuses have changed exceedingly slowly because there exists denial among higher education institutions. She does not, however, believe that this denial has been prompted by malicious intent, but rather from discomfort in accepting the reality that college is a place where sexual violence can happen.
“Swarthmore has made significant progress and the federal initiative will only advance the existing momentum and efforts we have underway,” Fischette said. “I am grateful for that opportunity at Swarthmore as I’ve learned so much from our students already and I look forward to learning even more as we continue the conversation about sexual violence.”
Members of Swarthmore’s for Sexual Misconduct Task Force were contacted for this article but did not respond in time for print.