Government begins sexual assault initiative

The U.S. Department of Education along with its Office for Civil Rights sent a letter to all college campuses earlier this month as part of their new initiative to strengthen response to sexual assaults in schools and on college campuses.

The letter states “sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students’ right to receive an education free from discrimination and, in the case of sexual violence, is a crime.”

According to Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Karen Van Norman the letter offers detailed guidance on existing regulations, but there are no new regulations or requirements set forth through it.

The letter is in accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual harassment of students, including acts of sexual violence.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Education, Vice President Joe Biden said students across the country deserve the safest possible environment in which to learn.

“That’s why we’re taking new steps to help our nation’s schools, universities and colleges end the cycle of sexual violence on campus,” Biden said in the press release.

According to a fact sheet published April 4 by the U.S. Department of Education and the Office for Civil Rights, acts of sexual violence are vastly under-reported, but data shows that young students are suffering from such crimes.

“When young women get to college, nearly 20 percent of them will be victims of attempted or actual sexual assault, as will about 6 percent of undergraduate men,” according to the fact sheet.

These statistics are among several reasons why the letter was issued and the initiative was taken.

The letter was also issued to explain that “the requirements of Title IX cover sexual violence and to remind schools of their responsibilities to take immediate and effective steps to respond to sexual violence in accordance with the requirements of Title IX,” according to the fact sheet.

Van Norman said while it is always important to receive such guidance from the Department of Education, for colleges and universities such as Seton Hall that were already in compliance with Title IX, it is not likely to change what said colleges and universities are already doing.

“I think any time that the Department of Education provides guidance or detail it can be helpful to all of us,” Van Norman said. “That is the case with this most recent letter.”

Aside from the letter, an event was held on April 4 at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. , to announce the new administrative effort to address sexual violence.

Vice President Biden sponsored the Violence Against Women Act in 2004, according to a Department of Education blog.

Both he and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered remarks at the event urging the importance of this initiative across the country.

Ashley Duvall can be reached at ashley.duvall@student.shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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