Obama spotlights sexual assualts on college campuses

Obama is putting a spotlight on what is called an epidemic of sexual assaults, particularly on college campuses.
January 22, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
A report from a White House council says that one in five women has been sexually assaulted at college, but only 12 percent report it. President Barack Obama is putting a spotlight on what is called an epidemic of sexual assaults, particularly on college campuses.

The president called for a shift in emphasis on education and sensitizing men to this growing problem.

"We need to encourage young people, men and women, to realize that sexual assault is simply unacceptable," Obama said.

And that's one thing San Jose State University has already been doing.

The advice of university police and other public safety agencies has been engrained in the minds of young women on campus.

"I never walk alone. I'm always with someone," freshman Clara Espar said. "I try to avoid dark streets, and always with someone."

However, Obama is urging a new focus to prevent sexual assaults.

"I want every young man in America to feel some strong peer pressure in terms of how they're supposed to behave," he said.

San Jose State had three reported sexual assaults last year. In line with what the president is seeking, university police have been reaching out to men at fraternities and in dorms and the message is clear -- sexual assault means registering as an offender.

"Then they have to deal with registration where they have to register for the rest of their life as a sexual predator," SJSU Police Sgt. Jenny Gaxiola said. "So when you tell them that, and as a part of education, they're very serious about what they have to hear, and they take the matters more seriously."

Students say they're starting to see a change in how men are treating women.

"I see change coming actually; a lot of people taking more responsibility than what I've seen in the past through my eyes as a guy," freshman Nigel Vega said.

Kathleen Krenek is executive director of Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence. She says the president's new task force on sexual assaults focus on college campuses is a start.

"Putting the onus on the victim of a crime or the population that experiences the crime is not going to stop the crime; you have to go to that at-risk group that perpetrated the crime," she said.

However, she would like to see the subject brought up earlier at younger ages.

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