Strengthening Our Response to Sexual Assault in Schools and on College Campuses

Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and University of New Hampshire Senior Sara Jane Bibeau deliver remarks at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham, NH. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

“When it comes to sexual abuse, it is quite simple: no means no,” said Vice President Biden at an event earlier today at the University of New Hampshire.  Secretary Duncan joined the Vice President on the campus of UNH to announce new guidance to help schools, colleges and universities better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to the problem of campus sexual assault.

The Vice President—who as a Senator was the sponsor of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994—noted that schools, colleges, universities and community colleges all have a responsibility to be proactive in what amounts to the civil rights of women on campuses.

One of the reasons for this new guidance is that acts of sexual violence are vastly under-reported.  “Every school would like to believe it is immune from sexual violence, but the facts suggest otherwise,” said Secretary Duncan.  Duncan also explained that sexual violence is not only a problem at colleges and universities, but more and more of our nation’s young students are suffering from acts of sexual violence early.  Recent data shows that nearly 4,000 reported incidents of sexual battery and over 800 reported rapes and attempted rapes are occurring in our nation’s public high schools. By the time girls graduate from high school, more than one in ten will have been physically forced to have sexual intercourse in or out of school.

The Vice President noted that the Obama administration is the first administration to state that sexual violence is not only a crime, but can also be a violation of a woman’s civil rights.  You can read more about today’s event, a pdf fact sheet from ED’s Office for Civil Rights, and read ED’s dear colleague letter to higher ed, K-12 and other Title IX stakeholders.

Watch Secretary Duncan and Vice President Biden speak at UNH.


  1. It’s refreshing to see the government taking a public stand against sexual violence, regardless of the gender. For too long, sexual violence has been a taboo and seldom discussed issue, which only added to its prevalence. As soon as there is public dialogue among our government officials about things like date rape and other forms of assault, that dialogue will trickle down to our communities, universities and friends and families. Only then will victims of sexual violence feel the support necessary to come forward, and only then will the problem be dealt with adequately through the justice system. Knowledge is truly power, and by providing necessary information to universities and to individuals about their rights, the Dept. of Ed and the Obama administration are finally giving power back to the victims of sexual violence.

  2. I only wish I knew how to find my friends the right Ohio attorney to get him the mean to get good therapy. What was done to him is unmentionable. The same college had a rape victim and the college immediate apology to her and her family, this guy’s apology? NONE. His therapy? None.

  3. This case is exactly why it is so irresponsible to position sexual assault as a civil rights issue for women. It’s not only women who are victims and what Biden’s speech did was largely position it that way, taking emphasis off of how these matters should be treated, making it a women’s issue and doing nothing to make sure that universities are respecting ALL students’ civil rights.

  4. Mr. Cameron Brenchley.

    My friend was sexually assaulted in Columbus, Ohio where he attended a nursing program at a community college. He was robbed and assaulted in a restroom. When he regained consciousness after his assault he was able to yell for help. He was found by a faculty member of the college, the EMS was called and he was sent to the hospital due to the injuries from the assault and had to undergo surgery, The college only recently offered him counseling.

    The never contacted him after the assault. When he called them finally, he was told they was not allowed to legally contact him. The also have told him if he cooperated with the college and NOT get an attorney involved they would make a proper settlement to reinsure he had the option of education AT ANOTHER COLLEGE, a 4 year university. The settlement was to go to future medical expenses, therapy, tuition and enough to relocate.

    JUMPING FORWARD: The college has repeatedly made excuses, finally the victim was told once he was accepted at the 4 yr college the settlement would be signed. The day of the signing of this contract, the President of the college told him they would need him to sign a paper claiming that parts of his statement was fabricated. The victim left after saying he would NOT sign such a paper, that signing suvh would be a lie and unethcial. He was told if he didn’t sign all offers was off. Since that date 3/28/11. They will not return his phone calls or return emails.

  5. This is an issue for the Federal Government because they provide millions of dollars to colleges and universities as long as they abide by the rules and regulations set forth by the Department of Education. One of these regulations is Title IX. Currently there is not equal rights for women on college campuses in regards to judicial matters around sexual violence. This equals the rights of women by allowing them such things as equal right to appeal and equal knowledge of outcomes. Although these are guidelines they are just as important as law. If colleges want federal funding then they will adopt these guidelines.

  6. Thanks Jay for your comment, and thanks for raising a good point. You are right that sexual assault on campus and in schools doesn’t just happen to women and girls. Because women are overwhelmingly the victims of assault, there is a tendency to generalize when making statements. ED’s Office for Civil Rights believes that this is a civil rights issue for men and women alike and we make available the same resources no matter what the gender of the victim. If you would like to contact our Civil Rights office to file a complaint on behalf of your friend, you can email them at

    Cameron Brenchley
    Office of Communications and Outreach
    U.S. Department of Education

  7. My best friend was sexually assaulted at Columbus State Community College in May 2010, the college still has not done a thing to help him and this article doesn’t help…………..the article says the Obama administration feels that sexual assault is a violation of womens rights??????what happens when a man is raped.

  8. If only the new OCR regulation meant that schools were going to enforce a “no means no” policy. That would be incredibly fair and just. What isn’t just, and is a violation of many students’ civil rights, is that according to most schools’ policies “yes” can mean “no.” Male students can currently be punished for sex that was at the time consensual if a female student decides that she would not have given consent had she not been drinking. This means that rape is essentially decided if a female student feels afterwards that she would not make the same decision again. This is an impossible and unjust standard to hold, and I think Joe Biden and Arne Duncan have really gotten it wrong.

  9. Why is this an issue for the Federal Government?

    I’m not sure what part of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress authority over these issues. Unless you consider rapists not purchasing condoms as falling under the Interstate Commerce Clause.

    Sounds like a matter better suited to the local sheriffs.

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