ABC News’ Karen Travers and Tahman Bradley report:
Vice President Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke at the University of New Hampshire yesterday to bring attention to the high rates of sexual assault and violence committed against women on college campuses across the country.
The Obama Administration also released new guidance to help schools at all levels better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to sexual assault on campus.
“Rape is rape is rape, and the sooner universities make that clear, the sooner we’ll begin to make progress on campuses,” Vice President Biden said.
Biden told an audience of about 600 that when it comes to sexual abuse, it is quite simple: “No means no.”
“No means no, if you’re drunk or you’re sober,” he said. No means no if you’re in bed in a dorm or on the street, no means no even if you said yes at first and you changed your mind.”
“No matter how much she’s had to drink, it’s never, never, never, never, never ok to touch her without her consent,” Biden said. “This doesn’t make you a man, it makes you a coward. A flat-out coward.”
Administration officials said it was just a coincident that this event occurred as the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights launched an investigation into what some students say is a “hostile sexual environment” at Yale University. (More from ABC’s Linsey Davis, Emily Friedman and Enjoli Francis on the Yale story HERE)
Last week senior Obama administration and Department of Education officials explained that this effort is a nationwide awareness campaign and an explanation of longstanding requirements under Title IX – there are no new laws being introduced.
The Education Department will now provide schools and universities more direction about their responsibilities under Title IX to protect victims of sexual assault and create a climate where sexual violence is not tolerated. According to statistics from the Education Department, nearly 20 percent of young women will be the victims of attempted or actual sexual assault in college.
Why New Hampshire?
Officials said last week that the university had demonstrated what an institute of higher learning can do when it’s committed to combating sexual assault. These officials said that the University of New Hampshire has a strong sexual assault response program that can serve as a model for other universities.
It also put Biden in a key political state on the day that the Obama 2012 campaign was launched.
Biden, of course, has been a leading voice in Washington on the broader issue of domestic violence, authoring the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) when he was in the Senate. An administration official told reporters that domestic violence incidents have dropped by more than 50 percent since the passage of that legislation.