OUTSIDE THE BUBBLE 5/01/14

Report on College Sexual Assault

 

The key message Tuesday from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault stated that colleges must take action to curb violence that has plagued women at schools across the country.

“Colleges and universities can no longer turn a blind eye or pretend rape and sexual assault doesn’t occur on their campuses,” Vice President Biden said in a 20-page report was released Tuesday. “We need to provide survivors with more support and we need to bring perpetrators to more justice and we need colleges and universities to step up” (Washington Post, “White House issues report on steps to prevent sexual assaults on college campuses,” 04.29.14).

The report is titled “Not Alone,” which is also the name of a new website the administration created as a resource for schools and the victims of sexual assault. Its work reflects contributions from several federal agencies, including the Departments of Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services.

Here are some highlights from the report: Sexual assault victims should be able to speak in confidentiality to a trained advocate who would not be required “to report all the details of an incident to school officials,” as some colleges have mandated in recent years.

“Questions about the survivor’s sexual history with anyone other than the alleged perpetrator should not be permitted” (NPR, “Campus Sexual Assaults Are Targeted In New White House Report,” 04.29.15).

The White House’s announcement comes a little more than a week after a bipartisan group of seven senators called on the Obama administration to embrace a group of three reforms—including conducting annual, anonymous surveys about sexual violence on campus; designating one person to oversee national policy governing rape and sexual misconduct and harassment in higher education.

The lawmakers’ push was spearheaded by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and was also signed by Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nev.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Mazie Horono, D-Hawaii; and Patty Murray, D-Wash (USA Today, “White House wants transparency on college sexual assaults,” 04.29.14).

The report said the government would make enforcement data and other information about sex assault available through a website called NotAlone.gov. It said the site would collect in one easy-to-read place information that students have often struggled to find. The site will aim to “give students a clear explanation of their rights,” the report said. “It will help students wade through often complicated legal definitions and concepts, and point them toward people who can give them confidential advice—and those who can’t,” the report said (Washington Post).

 

Tornadoes hit the South hard

 

Tornadoes flattened homes, flipped trucks over on highways and bent telephone poles as they barreled through Alabama and Mississippi on Monday, part of a storm system that killed at least nine people in the South and brought the overall death toll from two days of severe weather in the country to at least 26.

Tens of thousands of citizens were without power in Alabama, Miss., and in the state of Kentucky, which did not report tornadoes but was slammed with severe storms.

Thousands more hunkered down in basements and shelters as The National Weather Service issued watches and warnings for more tornadoes throughout the night

(ABCNews, “At Least 9 Dead as Tornadoes Barrel Through South,” 04.29.14).

Search and rescue efforts were still under way in Louisville, Mississippi, about 90 miles northeast of Jackson, where a tornado the day before flattened a day care center, said Robert Latham of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the tornadoes inflicted “severe damage” in Louisville.

“One of the confirmed deaths we received is the manager of that facility,” he said, adding that search and rescue crews were still combing through the debris from the tornadoes for possible traces of victims. All the children have been accounted for, he said (CNN, “Death toll from severe storms at 35,” 04.29.14).

Tens of thousands of customers were without power in Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky, which did not report tornadoes but experienced severe storms. Thousands more hunkered down in basements and shelters as The National Weather Service issued watches and warnings for more tornadoes throughout the night in Alabama.

The storm even sent staff at a TV news station running for cover. NBC affiliate WTVA-TV chief meteorologist Matt Laubhan in Tupelo, Miss., was reporting live on the weather around 3 p.m. when he realized the twister was coming close enough that he and his staff should abandon the television studio.

“This is a tornado ripping through the city of Tupelo as we speak. And this could be deadly,” he said in a video widely tweeted and broadcast on YouTube.

Moments later he adds, “A damaging tornado. On the ground. Right now” (NPR, Tornadoes Kill 11 As Storms Move Across The South,” 04.29.14).

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