For President Obama, combating sexual assault in the U.S., particularly in college communities, isn’t just part of his job as president. It’s also one of his top priorities as a dad.
“This is a priority for me, not only as president and commander in chief but as a husband and a father of two extraordinary girls,” the president said at the White House Wednesday.
“You can judge a nation and how successful it will be based on how it treats its women and its girls. Those nations that are successful, they’re successful in part because women and girls are valued,” he said. “I’m determined that by that measure, the United States of America will be the global leader.”
President Obama signed a memorandum Wednesday to establish the White House Task Force on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault, an effort to curb the number of sexual assaults on college campuses. A report from the White House Council on Women and Girls says that one in five women is sexually assaulted while they attend college.
“I want every young man in America to feel some strong peer pressure in terms of how they are supposed to behave and treat women,” the president said. “We need to encourage young people, men and women, to realize that sexual assault is simply unacceptable, and they’re going to have to summon the bravery to stand up and say so, especially when the social pressure to keep quiet or to go along can be very intense.”
The task force will aim to provide schools with best practices guidelines for preventing sexual assaults, enhance transparency of the federal government’s enforcement activities, and coordinate among federal agencies to ensure schools are held accountable for confronting sexual assault on their campus.
While the new task force’s focus is on college communities, the president addressed the issue of sexual assault in the military, saying he expects “significant progress” in ending sexual assaults in the military over the next year.
“When a member of our military is assaulted by the very people he or she trusted and serves with, or when they leave the military voluntarily or involuntarily because they were raped, that’s a profound injustice that no one who volunteers to defend America should ever have to endure,” he said.
“As commander-in-chief, I’ve made it clear to our military leadership that we need to deal aggressively with the problem of sexual assault in our armed forces. It has been going on too long, and we have an obligation to protect the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect us,” the president said. “I’ve made it clear that I expect significant progress in the year ahead. These crimes have no place in the greatest military on earth.”