White House Task Force Recommendations and Stanford’s Take Back the Night: Remembering to Listen and to Act

Yesterday the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released its first document of recommendations to universities as well as launched a new website and public service announcement. The Task Force, created on January 22, 2014 by President Obama after several high-profile reports of university mishandling of sexual assault cases, encourages schools to develop a survey that will accurately measure the extent of sexual assault on campus and determine where the school could better comply with Title IX. The report put out by the Task Force also suggests several methods for improving a school’s response to reports of sexual assault or relationship abuse, such as creating trauma training for university employees and campus and local police authorities so that they can better respond and aid survivors without further traumatizing them, and they also recommend providing confidential personnel for survivors to talk to and seek advice from who know about Title IX or alternative review processes.
Though the report released yesterday are recommendations and therefore may not have the same legal force as a law would, its practical suggestions for aiding survivors and holding perpetrators accountable, created in part by many meetings with schools and survivors of sexual assault on college campuses, demonstrates a commitment to listening to the voices of those who have been most impacted by gender violence. Their website, “Not Alone,” reflects survivors’ calls for more clarity and further understanding of victims’ rights. Their one-minute public service announcement includes celebrities like Steve Carell and Daniel Craig as well as Biden and Obama who speak out against violence against women, encouraging bystander action and demonstrating the necessity of men’s involvement in the cause to end such violence.
I was incredibly moved by and am so grateful for the stories shared by friends, acquaintances, and strangers last night at Stanford’s Take Back the Night. The silent march and following gathering of students in the Black Community Services Center demonstrated both the need for further awareness and bystander action as well as the importance of trained university respondents. The march, organized by a student committee headed by the SARA Office‘s student intern, provided several personnel on the sidelines for people to talk to throughout the event if they were triggered or just wanted to talk. At the end of the night, I was again so grateful to have shared the space with friends and peers, and reminded again of what prevalent issues sexual assault and relationship abuse are. We as a community must continue to listen to the voices of survivors, to not take part in victim-blaming, and to pressure our university to continually improve its resources and response to survivors. The White House Task Force provides the recommendations and an educational website, but as a community made up of individuals and individual actions, we must remember to all take responsibility for the culture we help create, and use our position as students to leverage for more resources and communication between the university and students.

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