The Obama administration is taking a new approach to cracking down on campus violence.
The president, vice president, their wives, and members of the Cabinet will all forgo visits to schools that have not taken serious action to combat sexual assault, according to White House officials.
As the administration comes to an end, it is ramping up efforts to stamp out campus sexual assault. But it has already made major strides throughout the eight years that President Barack Obama has been in office.
Vice President Joe Biden says he spoke to Obama about sexual violence on college campuses before they won office in 2008. Biden requested a team to address violence against women "within the office of the vice president" as opposed to the Justice Department.
The Education Department in 2010 and 2011 issued "Dear Colleague" letters to school administrators, offering guidance for preventing and addressing sexual assault on campus. Institutions that did not take sufficient action against sexual assault were told they could be found in violation of Title IX and may lose federal funding. Some critics, such as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) have argued that the guidance is overreaching.
Currently, the Education Department has 253 ongoing investigations at 198 postsecondary institutions.
Also see: What can you expect when addressing sexual misconduct in 2016?
In 2014, the White House launched a public awareness campaign called "It's On Us" that encourages bystander intervention to prevent sexual assault. Obama has also encouraged men to get more involved in preventing sexual assaults. Last year, Biden was the featured speaker at a 2,000-person rally at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign for the campaign.
Biden has been a particularly outspoken advocate for sexual assault victims. Last month, he penned a letter to the victim of a high-profile rape case at Stanford University, writing, "I am filled with furious anger, both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken."
Biden also continues to meets privately with victims of sexual assault on college campuses and in other settings.
Laura Dunn, founder of the victims' rights group SurvJustice, filed a federal complaint against the University of Wisconsin in 2006 and picketed the Education Department in 2013 for not taking sufficient action to hold colleges accountable. However, she has met twice with Biden and has also advised the administration on campus sexual assault policies for several years.
"I think the government heard us," Dunn says (Eilperin, Washington Post, 7/3).
Resource hub: Sexual violence prevention and response
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