Boulder, CO- Last week, President Obama announced a new initiative and task force aimed at preventing sexual assault and rape on college campuses. This initiative, he said, was to let assault victims know they were not alone and would encourage colleges and universities to revamp their reporting and investigative policies.

While the task force and the President’s commitment to protecting college women from sexual violence are admirable and welcome since one in five college women are assaulted or raped, it doesn’t offer solutions for the sexual harassment problem, which is pervasive on college campuses.

These statistics should give a picture of the scope of sexual harassment on college campuses:

  • At least 62 percent of women and 61 percent of men report being sexually harassed on their campus.
  • Sixty-six percent know at least one person who has been sexually harassed.
  • Less than 10 percent of sexual harassment victims actually report their experiences to facility staff.
  • Thirty-five percent of sexual harassment victims never tell anyone, not even friends or family, about their experience.

Sexual assault and rape have many detrimental effects on the victim often leading to drug abuse, eating disorders, depression and decreased productivity. But sexual harassment affects the victims as well and keeps the victims from getting the education they deserve and are paying dearly for.

Many college victims of sexual harassment admit that they were upset about the incident and found it hard to concentrate in class. Students admit to missing at least one class as a result of their harassment. If the behavior persists and students face it on a daily basis their academic careers can be seriously affected.

Campus harassment is opening a door to other sexual misconduct and creates an atmosphere where this type of behavior can escalate from a few inappropriate words to actual physical violence.  It’s all about attitude; if students are allowed to say whatever they want to another student without fear of consequences, then would they be more inclined to push the limits of what is permissible?

By failing to take allegations of harassment and assault seriously, creates a culture of permissiveness and discourages the victims from speaking out and reporting the harassment.

Drawing a line and making it clear sexual harassment, like rape and assault, are forbidden will go a long way to prevent this abuse from happening. It is up to college administrators to draw that line and make it clear that no student should be subjected to sexual harassment, assault or rape

Over the past two years, numerous universities, including the University of Colorado- Boulder, have been investigated by the Department of Education for their failure to address sexual harassment and assault on their campuses.  In the wake of these investigations, colleges have changed their reporting policies and are taking allegations more seriously. This hasn’t eliminated the problem altogether but will go a long way in helping curtail it.

Colleges have made strides in protecting students from all forms of sexual harassment but they can do more. Harassment victims can turn a Denver sexual harassment attorney when they are unable to get their employer or college administrator to take their claims seriously.