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White House announces recommendations to help combat campus sexual assaults

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President Barack Obama signs the Presidential Memorandum establishing the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault on January 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) President Barack Obama signs the Presidential Memorandum establishing the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault on January 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
UNC senior Andrea Pino and alumna Annie Clark attended a press conference to announce recommendations to combat on-campus assaults. UNC senior Andrea Pino and alumna Annie Clark attended a press conference to announce recommendations to combat on-campus assaults.
WASHINGTON -

A White House Task Force aimed at protecting students from sexual assault announced a series of actions Tuesday that schools can take to help prevent on-campus assaults.

The recommendations stem from a 90-day review by the task force that President Barack Obama created after his administration heard complaints about the poor treatment of campus rape victims and the hidden nature of such crimes.

Some of the recommendations include identifying the scope of the problem on college campuses through climate surveys. Toolkits for developing and conducting a climate survey will be provided to schools.

Other recommendations include helping schools to respond more effectively to sexual assaults by providing specialized training to school officials.

"Colleges and universities can no longer turn a blind eye or pretend that rape and sexual assault doesn't occur on their campus," Vice President Joe Biden said in announcing the results of the task force's work.

Advocates praised the rare, high-profile attention being given to the issue, even as they acknowledged that much of the action required will still need to come from college administrators.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill senior Andrea Pino and alumna Annie Clark attended Tuesday's news conference to announce the recommendations. Pino and Clark were invited to the White House after providing recommendations to the task force.

"This is the first time the task force is unveiling what they're recommending," said Pino, who said she was the victim of assault and has been pushing for change in how universities handle sexual assault cases. "They're not perfect, there's a lot of gaps including how it is that we're going to be holding schools accountable.

"How it is that we're going to fix a lot of the inner problems at the Department of Education in the sense that they simply can't handle the influx of complaints that they're having right now."

UNC has been in the spotlight for the way it handles sexual assaults. The U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights began investigating the university more than a year ago after receiving a complaint from three students, a former student and a former assistant dean of students saying UNC mishandles sexual abuse cases.

Last week, the Department of Justice launched a nationwide college tour at North Carolina Central University in Durham to better protect students against sexual assault.

The school received two 3-year grants totaling $570,000 to respond to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. The grants will also be used to create prevention programs for all incoming students, train law enforcement and create partnerships in the community.

The White House is also launching a new website called "Not Alone" where students can learn about their rights, search enforcement data, and read about how to file a complaint.

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