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Friday, September 19, 2014

White House endorses McCaskill sexual assault campaign

Missouri’s U.S. Senator applauded Vice President Joe Biden’s support.

A single sexual assault is too many.

That’s the slogan of a new White House initiative, the “1 is 2 Many” campaign against sexual violence on American college campuses. The effort comes as Vice President Joe Biden’s response to Sen. Claire McCaskill’s own attempt to tackle campus assaults.

“Everybody needs to be all-in on this fight, and the White House has shown great leadership in putting this together,” McCaskill said in a news release. “These recommendations are strong — they will be a critical part of our efforts moving forward, and I look forward to working closely with the White House on legislation to better protect our students and ensure perpetrators aren’t getting a free pass.”

McCaskill spearheaded the successful effort last year to reform sexual assault reporting procedures in the U.S. military. After McCaskill’s legislation won out against a stricter system suggested by fellow Democrat, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — who’s since joined her side of the fight against college sex crimes — McCaskill has set her sights on academia.

The White House campaign, bolstered by a public service announcement featuring actors Benicio del Toro, Daniel Craig and Steve Carell alongside Biden and President Barack Obama, aims to educate the masses.

“This PSA is about reaching out to people and letting them know that there is an epidemic of sexual assaults,” del Toro said in a statement. “It is about protecting and respecting our loved ones — our mothers, sisters, daughters, wives and girlfriends.”

McCaskill spokeswoman Sarah Feldman said that the Missouri senator was pleased with the Obama administration’s push against sexual assaults.

“She thought it was great,” Feldman said. “(McCaskill) thought it was really powerful and gets the right message across, which is that unless there is explicit consent, it’s rape and there is no gray area.”

Feldman said that McCaskill’s office is still waiting to receive the sexual assault statistics it requested last month from the departments of Justice and Education. The assault reporting survey McCaskill sent to over 350 universities and community colleges has yet to be returned as well, but McCaskill said she is planning for the long term.

“It’s a first step,” she said at a news conference last week. “A meaningful first step.”

McCaskill, a former sex crimes prosecutor, said it will likely come down to more than a survey.

”There’s still a lot more work,” she said.

McCaskill suggested that legislation, like Biden’s landmark Violence Against Women Act 20 years ago, could come into play as a tool once her survey is complete. Her bill would build on existing components of Title IX, which bans institutional sex discrimination — which sexual assault falls under.

The Senate survey will provide a look into institutions’ attitudes and procedures regarding sexual assault reporting, which are key in determining schools’ adherence to Title IX standards.

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