Tag Archives: domestic violence

Illinois law requires stylists to be trained in domestic violence support

Illinois has a new law requiring stylists in the state to be trained in domestic violence support and response.

The law will take effect Jan. 1.

Pin-Up Hair Studio stylist Jamie Feramisco in Quincy, Illinois, said hairdressers sometimes learn about incidents of domestic violence through chatting with clients.

She said she often hears accounts of domestic violence in her salon and that she tries to support women facing such circumstances.

The mandate was passed as an amendment to the Barber, Cosmetology, Hair Braiding and Nail Technology Act of 1985.

The legislation aligns the Professional Beauty Association’s Cut It Out program, which pushes similar efforts.

“The salon is a safe place to go. People tell their stylists things they don’t even tell their family or friends,” PBA Director of Charitable Programs Rachel Molepske said. “We have gotten testimonials from people that said this program saved them.”

Feramisco said she plans to host a training session at the salon once the state has established a curriculum.

“The whole idea is to help hairdressers deal with disclosures. There is a right way and a wrong way to talk to someone. It can make or break the way a person handles their assault,” Quanada Prevention Educator JJ Magliocco said. “We are teaching them that they can make a difference. They don’t have to keep their mouth shut.”

The legislation is HB4264.

Court upholds reach of gun ban for domestic violence

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the broad reach of a federal law that bars people with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from owning guns.

The justices rejected arguments that the law covers only intentional or knowing acts of abuse and not those committed recklessly — where a person is aware of the risk that an act will cause injury, but not certain it will. As examples, the court mentioned throwing a plate in the heat of an argument, or slamming a door.

The case involved two Maine men who said their guilty pleas for hitting their partners should not disqualify them from gun ownership.

Writing for herself and five other justices, Justice Elena Kagan said that Congress enacted the gun law some 20 years ago to close a loophole and “prohibit domestic abusers convicted under run-of-the-mill misdemeanor assault and battery laws from possessing guns.” She said if the law were read to exclude misdemeanors in which a person acted recklessly, it would “substantially undermine the provision’s design.”

Gun-rights groups had argued that Stephen Voisine and William Armstrong III should not lose their constitutional right to bear arms, while advocates for victims of domestic abuse pushed to preserve the restriction.

The case isn’t among the more important ones of the term. White House spokesman Eric Schultz said while the Obama administration is pleased with the ruling, he suggested it wouldn’t have a significant impact on the debate in Congress about gun control, a debate renewed by a mass shooting earlier this month that left 49 people dead at a gay nightclub in Florida.

The case is notable, however, in part because when it was argued on Feb. 29 Justice Clarence Thomas asked a series of questions from the bench, the first time in 10 years that he’d asked a question. His questions came less than a month after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, his close friend, conservative ally and also a strong supporter of gun rights.

Thomas expressed concern at the argument that a misdemeanor conviction could deprive someone of their constitutional gun rights, pressing a government attorney for any other examples when that could happen. He returned to that issue in a dissenting opinion Monday.

“Under the majority’s reading, a single conviction under a state assault statute for recklessly causing an injury to a family member — such as by texting while driving – can now trigger a lifetime ban on gun ownership,” he wrote, adding: “We treat no other constitutional right so cavalierly.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor joined Thomas’ dissent in part, agreeing that if Congress wanted to cover all reckless conduct it could have written the law differently.

The two men who were the subjects of Monday’s decision were convicted of breaking federal law by possessing firearms following misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence. Both men argued that they should not be barred from gun ownership because their convictions could have been based on reckless action, not action that was knowing or intentional.

Voisine pleaded guilty to assault in 2004 after slapping his girlfriend in the face while he was intoxicated. Several years later, an anonymous caller reported that he had shot a bald eagle with a rifle. He was then convicted under the gun law and sentenced to a year in prison.

Armstrong pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife in 2008. A few years later, police searching his home as part of a narcotics investigation discovered firearms and ammunition. He was sentenced to three years of probation.

Justice Dept. issues new guidance for police response to domestic violence, sexual assault | Policies follow investigations of gender-biased policing

The Department of Justice this week issued new guidance to law enforcement agencies, detailing how certain police responses to domestic violence and sexual assault violate victims’ civil rights.

“Gender bias, whether explicit or implicit, can severely undermine law enforcement’s ability to protect survivors of sexual and domestic violence and hold offenders accountable,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  “This guidance – developed in collaboration with law enforcement leaders and advocates from across the country – is designed to help state, local and tribal authorities more fairly and effectively address allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault.  In the days and months ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to work with our law enforcement partners nationwide to ensure that they have the tools and resources they need to prevent, investigate and prosecute these horrendous crimes.”

The guidance comes on the heels of DOJ investigations of gender-biased policing in New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Montana and Arizona that documented the systemic failure of police departments to properly investigate domestic violence and sexual assault cases or to hold police officers accountable when they commit domestic or sexual violence.

“Domestic violence-related calls constitute the single largest category of calls received by police departments, so how police officers respond to domestic violence and sexual assault has a huge impact on the lives of women, families and communities across the United States,” said Sandra Park, senior staff attorney in the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Police practices can either help end the cycle of violence or they can perpetuate it.”

Even when an assault clearly qualifies as criminal activity, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault may face disbelief, victim-blaming, and hostility from law enforcement.

The DOJ guidance calls on local police departments to examine their practices and policies relating to policing of domestic violence and sexual assault, which disproportionately impact women and LGBT people. It lays out the following eight principles that should guide police departments:

  • Recognize and address biases, assumptions, and stereotypes about victims
  • Treat all victims with respect and employ interviewing tactics that encourage a victim to participate and provide facts about the incident
  • Investigate sexual assault or domestic violence complaints thoroughly and effectively
  • Appropriately classify reports of sexual assault or domestic violence
  • Refer victims to appropriate services
  • Properly identify the assailant in domestic violence incidents
  • Hold officers who commit sexual assault or domestic violence accountable
  • Maintain, review, and act upon data regarding sexual assault and domestic violence.

“The new DOJ guidance is a critical tool welcomed by both law enforcement and community advocates that empowers them to work together to improve how domestic violence and sexual assault cases are handled,” said Park. “Survivors must have equal access to an unbiased criminal justice system that offers them protection and ensures that perpetrators cannot act with impunity.”

Courts and the DOJ have concluded that victims of domestic and sexual assault crimes are denied equal protection under the U.S. Constitution when these crimes are treated less seriously than other offenses based on gender bias. Victims’ due process rights are also violated when police commit acts of violence, such as sexual assault or when a victim is put at greater risk as a result of police conduct.

Domestic violence and sexual assault are two of the most prevalent forms of gender-based violence. In the U.S., over a million women are sexually assaulted each year and more than a third of women are subjected to rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, with women of color disproportionately affected.

Regional briefs: Protection grows for lake’s ‘stepping stones’ | And more

The Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge will expand to include most of St. Martin Island and all of Rocky Island in Lake Michigan, adding another 1,290 acres to the 330-acre refuge.

The islands are part of the Grand Traverse chain, which extends from Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula to Michigan’s Garden Peninsula.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy announced the expansion in late September.

“It’s gratifying to see our shared conservation missions coming together to protect these unique Great Lakes islands,” said Tom Melius, Midwest regional director of the FWS. “We couldn’t do this without a common vision among all the partners.”

Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1912 as habitat for migratory birds and consists of the 325-acre Plum Island and the smaller Pilot and Hog islands. With the addition of St. Martin and Rocky Islands, the refuge will increase by five times its original size.

Along with the other islands in the Grand Traverse chain, St. Martin Island is part of the Niagara Escarpment and has significant bluffs, which have rare native snails and plants associated with them. In addition to the bluffs, the island also supports forests, wetlands and an extensive cobblestone beach.

Both St. Martin and Rocky islands, along with others in the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge, provide important stopover habitat for birds that migrate through the Great Lakes each spring and fall.

In other regional news …

• GE GOING: General Electric Co. announced in late September plans to move 350 Wisconsin jobs to Canada due to Congress’ inaction to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. In response, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said, “We have seen significant job losses across the country directly related to the failure of House Republicans to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Now, the state of Wisconsin is feeling the brunt of their extreme economic agenda.”

• RYAN’S DISINTEREST: U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Janesville said he’s not interested in replacing Rep. John Boehner as speaker of the House of Representatives. Boehner announced in late September that he will be resigning at the end of October.

• LAKEFRONT LAND DEAL: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ board has put off deciding whether to sell a parcel of state-owned lakefront property to one of Scott Walker’s major donors. The agency wants to sell 1.75 acres along the Rest Lake shoreline to Elizabeth Uihlein for $275,000. Uihlein and husband Richard donated nearly $3 million to Walker’s presidential super PAC. She owns a condominium complex adjacent to the property but it lacks lake access.

• DON’T MESS WITH HIS VIEW: Richard Uihlein is also in the news for seeking state approval to keep a 12-acre floating bog away from property in northern Wisconsin. He’s proposing moving the bog north and fastening it to the lake bed, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. “This is the most preposterous idea that I have ever heard,” said Brett McConnell, an environmental specialist in the conservation department of the Lac Courte Oreilles band of Lake Superior Chippewa. “I would hope that every single person affiliated with the flowage would be opposed to this.”

• DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DATA: Forty-three people in Wisconsin lost their lives to domestic violence in 2014, according to the Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report released in conjunction with anti-violence walks hosted by the Zonta Clubs of Madison and Milwaukee and by End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. The report says 36 people were victims of domestic violence homicides. Six people were perpetrators of homicides who then committed suicide and one individual was a perpetrator of domestic violence who was killed by responding law enforcement. 

• LIFTING THE CAP: University of Wisconsin-Madison officials plan to ask UW System regents for permission to lift the school’s cap on out-of-state students, a move they say would attract more young people to Wisconsin. It also would bolster the school’s coffers considerably as it struggles with deep budget cuts. Currently out-of-state undergraduate enrollment at any UW campus can’t exceed 27.5 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment based on a three-year average.

• BAN THE BOX: In response to a bipartisan bill recently introduced in Congress that removes the box on federal employment applications that ask whether job seekers have a past felony conviction, state Sen. Lena C. Taylor, D-Milwaukee, announced she planned to re-introduce her state “Ban the Box” bill “to give residents who have made a mistake in life a fighting chance.”

• COSBY LOSES DEGREE: Marquette University rescinded an honorary degree it awarded Bill Cosby in 2013, when he gave the annual commencement address. Other universities, including the Jesuit school Fordham University, have taken back degrees bestowed on Cosby. Cosby has been accused by at least 20 women of drugging and raping them. “By his own admission, Mr. Cosby engaged in behaviors that go entirely against our university’s mission and the guiding values we have worked so hard to instill on our campus,” Marquette president Michael Lovell and provost Daniel Myers wrote in a letter to the Marquette community.

WRIGHT RESULTS: Frank Lloyd Wright experts announced on Oct. 6 that the Madison house Linda McQuillen bought for $100,000 has been verified as an American System-Built House, part of Wright’s effort to develop and market well-designed homes at a more affordable level — his first effort to reach a broader audience. It is the second such house identified in the past four months, one out of only 16 ever built and 14 still standing.

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Coalition backing local ID card in Milwaukee

A coalition of progressive community organizations and public officials on Oct. 5 are announcing their support for legislation creating a local identification card to be available to all people in the city of Milwaukee.

The program would be established through a city-county partnership.

Milwaukee IDs will benefit many undocumented and under-documented people, including immigrants, formerly incarcerated people, the elderly, transgender people, foster youth, homeless people and low income people.

With a Milwaukee ID, community members would be able to access city resources, open bank accounts, cash checks, obtain prescription medicine from the pharmacy, identify themselves to law enforcement and, according to a news release, “more fully participate in the life of the city.”

“In many cases, a lack of a government-issued ID is a barrier to domestic violence victims who are attempting to escape abusers,” said Tony Gibart, public policy director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. “First, court documents, such as petitions for divorce, must be notarized, and notaries usually require the presentation of a government-issued ID. Second, applications for federal immigration protections for undocumented victims of domestic violence and their children require possessing a government-issued ID. Providing the opportunity for people to easily obtain a local ID would address these problems.”

A news conference to announce the campaign was scheduled to take place at city hall at 6 p.m. on Oct. 5. Participants were to include representatives from the We Are All Milwaukee coalition for Milwaukee IDs, including Voces de la Frontera, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin and the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center.



Report: 43 domestic-violence related deaths in Wisconsin in 2014

Forty-three people in Wisconsin lost their lives to domestic violence in 2014, according to the Wisconsin Domestic Violence Homicide Report released this week in conjunction with anti-violence walks hosted by the Zonta Clubs of Madison and Milwaukee and by End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin.

The report says 36 people were victims of domestic violence homicides. Six people were perpetrators of homicides who then committed suicide and one individual was a perpetrator of domestic violence who was killed by responding law enforcement.

End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin has been producing the annual report since 2000. The 2014 homicide count was close to the annual average for that 15-year period.

“The release of the report and the gatherings today mark a time of remembrance and reflection,” said Patti Seger, executive director of End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin. “The report highlights research findings that point to clear warning signs for domestic violence killings. These indicators of risk should inform our efforts to prevent domestic violence deaths in the future.”

The report contains an in-depth discussion of a set of domestic violence assessment questions. The questions are designed to identify those who are at the greatest risk of being killed and provide them with outreach and services. A number of jurisdictions across the county and the state are using a version of the assessment questions, including Madison and Milwaukee.

The walk that took place in Madison circled the Capitol Square and was called the Purple Ribbon Walk.

In Milwaukee, the Zonta Says No to Violence Against Women Walk took place at city hall. Civic leaders, including Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Chief of Police Edward Flynn and District Attorney John Chisholm, joined in the walk.

“The Purple Ribbon Walk is a memorial to those who have lost their lives and is a recommitment to improving the safety of victims going forward,” said Laurie Logan, president of the Zonta Club of Madison. “During the walk, we carried purple pennants bearing the names of the victims who died in 2014 to show that we carry forward their memories and that we continue our commitment to preventing violence.”

“We organized the Zonta Says No to Violence Against Women Walk to draw awareness to domestic abuse and to call attention to the steps we can take as a community to enhance the safety of victims and their children,” said Donna Kahl-Wilkerson, president of the Zonta Club of Milwaukee. “We are proud that Milwaukee County is using lethality assessment to improve the response to victims.”

Other statistics from the report include:

• In 2014, 91 percent of domestic violence homicide perpetrators were men.

• The majority of victims of homicides involving intimate partners were killed after the relationship ended or when one person in the relationship was taking steps to leave the relationship.

• Victims reflected the span of life, from 1 year old to 78 years old. The average age of victims was 40 years old. Perpetrators ranged in age from 17 to 80. The average age for perpetrators was 41 years old.

• Homicides were committed in 19 separate counties in Wisconsin. About 55 percent of the homicide incidents occurred in urban areas, and roughly 45 percent happened in rural communities.

• Guns were used in 59 percent of the domestic violence homicide incidents.

Help for women’s shelters arrives by the truckload

Imagine leaving your home forever with literally just the clothes on your back — without even such basic necessities as a comb or a toothbrush.

Every day, countless survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault find themselves in that situation. When the opportunity to flee their abusers or attackers presents itself, they must often take instant action amid life-or-death circumstances. There’s no time to plan or pack a suitcase.

Unfortunately, decreased government grants have harmed domestic violence programs. Fortunately, philanthropists and private charities are generously helping to fill in the gaps.

Some of the help has come from unexpected places. Every year, for instance, Two Men and a Truck launches a massive nationwide drive to collect essentials for women’s shelters, which are then distributed around Mother’s Day.

The Movers for Moms program is a natural fit for the company, which lays claim to being the largest franchised moving company in the United States and internationally. The company already has the moving boxes and the trucks to transport the items. And, despite the company’s name, it’s woman-owned.

“The founder of our company nationally is a woman named Mary Ellen Sheets and her two sons, who are the original two men — and her daughter,” said Tim Lightner, who owns the Two Men and a Truck franchises in Dane and Rock Counties. “She was a single mom, and she decided from day one that being active in the community was an important mission for her.” 

Wisconsin’s TMT franchises participate in the program, which benefits the YWCAs of Dane and Rock counties, as well as the Women’s Resource Center of Racine. 

“This is our fifth year with the program, and it has just really exploded very wonderfully for us,” Lightner said.

He said his company sets up more than 50 donation sites each March in Dane County and many of them are filled and replaced over and over with items ranging from diaper rash cream to lip balm to shampoo to blankets.

“It’s been an educational thing for me — I hadn’t realized just how big the need was,” Lightner said. “One of our core values as a company is to give back and participate in the community. Being a good steward in the community is really an important part of what we do.”

The Women’s Resource Center of Racine provides shelter to about 350 victims of domestic violence annually. Executive director Cherie Griffin said the donations collected by Two Men and a Truck and other generous people are prompted in part by the fact that so many people know a victim of domestic violence.

“Their hearts know the mission, and that’s why they’re so willing to give,” Griffin said.

Besides fulfilling survivors’ needs for personal necessities, the donations communicate to survivors that there are “a lot of people out there who want (them) to be safe,” Griffin said. “That’s a powerful message, especially for victims who are so low and have been so isolated from their communities. That’s how abusers become successful, by disconnecting victims from their communities. … Domestic abuse is a power and control issue.”

People reaching out with aid in the simple form of shampoo and pillows are part of victims’ reconnection with the world at large and with themselves, Griffin said. And receiving that help from “powerful women making use of their resources and leveraging their companies to respond to crises such as these” sends a very important message to victims, she added.

Katy Perry: Female anthems make me ideal Super Bowl performer

Katy Perry says her female empowerment anthems make her the ideal Super Bowl halftime performer after an NFL season shadowed by highly publicized domestic violence cases involving players.

Perry was in discussions with the league last year as it faced scrutiny over its handling of incidents including Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice’s elevator assault of his then-fiancee.

“It wasn’t an image problem, it was a problem,” Perry said in an interview last week. “We were all watching and asking ourselves questions about what this year would mean. But I think that the problem that the NFL is dealing with is a global problem … we need to work out — or educate people on.

“I’m all about female empowerment and uplifting people’s spirits, and people finding their own voice with songs like ‘Roar’ and ‘Firework,’ so maybe there is no better person” for the show, Perry added. “Hopefully I can bring that incredible strength and empowerment to people through the performance.”

Perry promised a 12-minute mash-up of her hits, humor, multiple costume changes, at least two distinct “worlds” and special guests including Lenny Kravitz. She wouldn’t comment on reports that she would perform an unreleased song.

The Super Bowl’s massive TV audience — more than 110 million people last year — makes the halftime show a much sought-after gig for musicians. So much so that the NFL reportedly asked Perry and other finalists to pay for the privilege of performing Feb. 1 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Perry adamantly didn’t agree to that.

“I put my foot down very early in the courtship. I said, ‘Look guys, here’s where I draw a line in the sand,’” she said. “I want to be invited on my own merits and not with some fine print. I stuck to my position … I don’t even care if my contract leaks. … I have nothing to hide, basically.”

The heavily scrutinized broadcast has led to controversy in the past — from Janet Jackson’s 2004 “wardrobe malfunction” to M.I.A.’s middle finger flash when she assisted Madonna in 2012. Perry, 30, said she isn’t about to risk anything with her biggest single audience ever.

“Everything I’ve done in my career hasn’t been blatant this or that. It’s always with a wink. It’s a soft-serve sexiness,” Perry said. “My intention is that everyone talks about the music and nothing else. … Sometimes you can’t control other people. But I will control myself.”

On the Web



George Zimmerman arrested for domestic violence — again

George Zimmerman, whose acquittal of murdering an unarmed black teen in 2013 made him a hero on the political right and a symbol of what’s wrong with so-called “stand your ground” laws on the left, was arrested on Jan. 9 for allegedly throwing a wine bottle at his most recent girlfriend.

The incident is the latest in a series of domestic violence charges that Zimmerman has faced.

The Associated Press reported that Zimmerman, 31, was arrested for aggravated assault at his home in Florida’s Seminole County about 10 p.m. on Friday. He was released on a $5,000 bond Saturday afternoon.

At a court appearance earlier today, he was ordered to avoid contact with the woman, who was not identified. Judge John Galluzzo also ordered Zimmerman to stay out of Volusia County, where the woman lives, and to pack up any personal belongings his girlfriend might have left at his home and give them to his lawyer.

Zimmerman, who wore blue scrubs and handcuffs, appeared calm during the brief hearing. At one point, he laughed and joked with an officer as he signed paperwork.

Although the incident didn’t involve a firearm, the judge ordered Zimmerman to surrender any weapons in his possession. Zimmerman is scheduled to appear back in court on Feb. 17.

Zimmerman was acquitted in 2013 of a second-degree murder charge for shooting an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin.

Since his acquittal, Zimmerman has had several brushes with the law, including:

• He was arrested on charges of aggravated assault, battery and criminal mischief after his then-girlfriend said he pointed a gun at her face during an argument, smashed her coffee table and pushed her out of the house they shared. Samantha Scheibe decided not to cooperate with detectives and prosecutors didn’t pursue the case.

• Zimmerman was accused by his estranged wife of smashing an iPad during an argument at the home they had shared. Shellie Zimmerman initially told a dispatcher her husband had a gun, though she later said he was unarmed. No charges were ever filed because of a lack of evidence. The dispute occurred days after Shellie Zimmerman filed divorce papers.

• Zimmerman has also been pulled over three times for traffic violations since his acquittal.

Transcript: President Obama’s remarks on campaign against campus sexual assault

 This afternoon, in a speech in the East Room at the White House, President Barack Obama spoke about the “It’s On Us” campaign, a national public service to combat sexual assault on college campuses. The following is a transcript of the president’s remarks, provided by the White House:

Welcome to the White House, everybody.  And thank you to Joe Biden not just for the introduction, not just for being a great Vice President — but for decades, since long before he was in his current office, Joe has brought unmatched passion to this cause.  He has.  (Applause.) 

   And at a time when domestic violence was all too often seen as a private matter, Joe was out there saying that this was unacceptable.  Thanks to him and so many others, last week we were able to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the law Joe wrote, a law that transformed the way we handle domestic abuse in this country — the Violence Against Women Act.

     And we’re here to talk today about an issue that is a priority for me, and that’s ending campus sexual assault.  I want to thank all of you who are participating.  I particularly want to thank Lilly for her wonderful presentation and grace.  I want to thank her parents for being here.  As a father of two daughters, I on the one hand am enraged about what has happened; on the other hand, am empowered to see such an incredible young woman be so strong and do so well.  And we’re going to be thrilled watching all of the great things she is going to be doing in her life.  So we’re really proud of her.

     I want to thank the White House Council on Women and Girls.  Good Job.  Valerie, thank you.  (Applause.)  I want to thank our White House Advisor on Violence Against Women — the work that you do every day partnering with others to prevent the outrage, the crime of sexual violence.

     We’ve got some outstanding lawmakers with us.  Senator Claire McCaskill is right here from the great state of Missouri, who I love.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got Dick Blumenthal from the great state of Connecticut, as well as Congresswoman Susan Davis.  So thank you so much, I’m thrilled to have you guys here.  (Applause.)

     I also want to thank other members of Congress who are here and have worked on this issue so hard for so long.  A lot of the people in this room have been on the front lines in fighting sexual assault for a long time.  And along with Lilly, I want to thank all the survivors who are here today, and so many others around the country.  (Applause.)  Lilly I’m sure took strength from a community of people — some who came before, some who were peers — who were able to summon the courage to speak out about the darkest moment of their lives.  They endure pain and the fear that too often isolates victims of sexual assault.  So when they give voice to their own experiences, they’re giving voice to countless others — women and men, girls and boys –- who still suffer in silence.

     So to the survivors who are leading the fight against sexual assault on campuses, your efforts have helped to start a movement.  I know that, as Lilly described, there are times where the fight feels lonely, and it feels as if you’re dredging up stuff that you’d rather put behind you.  But we’re here to say, today, it’s not on you.  This is not your fight alone.  This is on all of us, every one of us, to fight campus sexual assault.  You are not alone, and we have your back, and we are going to organize campus by campus, city by city, state by state.  This entire country is going to make sure that we understand what this is about, and that we’re going to put a stop to it. 

     And this is a new school year.  We’ve been working on campus sexual assault for several years, but the issue of violence against women is now in the news every day.  We started to I think get a better picture about what domestic violence is all about.  People are talking about it.  Victims are realizing they’re not alone.  Brave people have come forward, they’re opening up about their own experiences. 

     And so we think today’s event is all that more relevant, all that more important for us to say that campus sexual assault is no longer something we as a nation can turn away from and say that’s not our problem.  This is a problem that matters to all of us.

     An estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years — one in five.  Of those assaults, only 12 percent are reported, and of those reported assaults, only a fraction of the offenders are punished.  And while these assaults overwhelmingly happen to women, we know that men are assaulted, too.  Men get raped.  They’re even less likely to talk about it.  We know that sexual assault can happen to anyone, no matter their race, their economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity -– and LGBT victims can feel even more isolated, feel even more alone.

     For anybody whose once-normal, everyday life was suddenly shattered by an act of sexual violence, the trauma, the terror can shadow you long after one horrible attack.  It lingers when you don’t know where to go or who to turn to.  It’s there when you’re forced to sit in the same class or stay in the same dorm with the person who raped you; when people are more suspicious of what you were wearing or what you were drinking, as if it’s your fault, not the fault of the person who assaulted you.  It’s a haunting presence when the very people entrusted with your welfare fail to protect you.

     Students work hard to get into college.  I know — I’m watching Malia right now, she’s a junior.  She’s got a lot of homework.  And parents can do everything they can to support their kids’ dreams of getting a good education.  When they finally make it onto campus, only to be assaulted, that’s not just a nightmare for them and their families; it’s not just an affront to everything they’ve worked so hard to achieve — it is an affront to our basic humanity.  It insults our most basic values as individuals and families, and as a nation.  We are a nation that values liberty and equality and justice.  And we’re a people who believe every child deserves an education that allows them to fulfill their God-given potential, free from fear of intimidation or violence.  And we owe it to our children to live up to those values.  So my administration is trying to do our part.

     First of all, three years ago, we sent guidance to every school district, every college, every university that receives federal funding, and we clarified their legal obligations to prevent and respond to sexual assault.  And we reminded them that sexual violence isn’t just a crime, it is a civil rights violation.  And I want to acknowledge Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for his department’s work in holding schools accountable and making sure that they stand up for students.

     Number two, in January, I created a White House task force to prevent — a Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.  Their job is to work with colleges and universities on better ways to prevent and respond to assaults, to lift up best practices.  And we held conversations with thousands of people –- survivors, parents, student groups, faculty, law enforcement, advocates, academics.  In April, the task force released the first report, recommending a number of best practices for colleges and universities to keep our kids safe.  And these are tested, and they are common-sense measures like campus surveys to figure out the scope of the problem, giving survivors a safe place to go and a trusted person to talk to, training school officials in how to handle trauma.  Because when you read some of the accounts, you think, what were they thinking?  You just get a sense of too many people in charge dropping the ball, fumbling something that should be taken with the most — the utmost seriousness and the utmost care. 

     Number three, we’re stepping up enforcement efforts and increasing the transparency of our efforts.  So we’re reviewing existing laws to make sure they’re adequate.  And we’re going to keep on working with educational institutions across the country to help them appropriately respond to these crimes.

     So that’s what we have been doing, but there’s always more that we can do.  And today, we’re taking a step and joining with people across the country to change our culture and help prevent sexual assault from happening.  Because that’s where prevention — that’s what prevention is going to require — we’ve got to have a fundamental shift in our culture. 

     As far as we’ve come, the fact is that from sports leagues to pop culture to politics, our society still does not sufficiently value women.  We still don’t condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should.  We make excuses.  We look the other way.  The message that sends can have a chilling effect on our young women.

     And I’ve said before, when women succeed, America succeeds — let me be clear, that’s not just true in America.  If you look internationally, countries that oppress their women are countries that do badly.  Countries that empower their women are countries that thrive. 

     And so this is something that requires us to shift how we think about these issues.  One letter from a young woman really brought this point home.  Katherine Morrison, a young student from Youngstown, Ohio, she wrote, “How are we supposed to succeed when so many of our voices are being stifled?  How can we succeed when our society says that as a woman, it’s your fault if you are at a party or walked home alone.  How can we succeed when people look at women and say ‘you should have known better,’ or ‘boys will be boys?’?”

     And Katherine is absolutely right.  Women make up half this country; half its workforce; more than half of our college students.  They are not going to succeed the way they should unless they are treated as true equals, and are supported and respected.  And unless women are allowed to fulfill their full potential, America will not reach its full potential.  So we’ve got to change.

     This is not just the work of survivors, it’s not just the work of activists.  It’s not just the work of college administrators.  It’s the responsibility of the soccer coach, and the captain of the basketball team, and the football players.  And it’s on fraternities and sororities, and it’s on the editor of the school paper, and the drum major in the band.  And it’s on the English department and the engineering department, and it’s on the high schools and the elementary schools, and it’s on teachers, and it’s on counselors, and it’s on mentors, and it’s on ministers. 

     It’s on celebrities, and sports leagues, and the media, to set a better example.  It’s on parents and grandparents and older brothers and sisters to sit down young people and talk about this issue.  (Applause.) 

     And it’s not just on the parents of young women to caution them.  It is on the parents of young men to teach them respect for women.  (Applause.)  And it’s on grown men to set an example and be clear about what it means to be a man. 

     It is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable.  And we especially need our young men to show women the respect they deserve, and to recognize sexual assault, and to do their part to stop it.  Because most young men on college campuses are not perpetrators.  But the rest — we can’t generalize across the board.  But the rest of us can help stop those who think in these terms and shut stuff down.  And that’s not always easy to do with all the social pressures to stay quiet or go along; you don’t want to be the guy who’s stopping another friend from taking a woman home even if it looks like she doesn’t or can’t consent.  Maybe you hear something in the locker room that makes you feel uncomfortable, or see something at a party that you know isn’t right, but you’re not sure whether you should stand up, not sure it’s okay to intervene.

     And I think Joe said it well — the truth is, it’s not just okay to intervene, it is your responsibility.  It is your responsibility to speak your mind.  It is your responsibility to tell your buddy when he’s messing up.  It is your responsibility to set the right tone when you’re talking about women, even when women aren’t around — maybe especially when they’re not around. 

     And it’s not just men who should intervene.  Women should also speak up when something doesn’t look right, even if the men don’t like it.  It’s all of us taking responsibility.  Everybody has a role to play. 

     And in fact, we’re here with Generation Progress to launch, appropriately enough, a campaign called “It’s On Us.”  The idea is to fundamentally shift the way we think about sexual assault. So we’re inviting colleges and universities to join us in saying, we are not tolerating this anymore –- not on our campuses, not in our community, not in this country.  And the campaign is building on the momentum that’s already being generated by college campuses by the incredible young people around the country who have stepped up and are leading the way.  I couldn’t be prouder of them. 

     And we’re also joined by some great partners in this effort –- including the Office of Women’s Health, the college sports community, media platforms.  We’ve got universities who have signed up, including, by the way, our military academies, who are represented here today.  So the goal is to hold ourselves and each other accountable, and to look out for those who don’t consent and can’t consent.  And anybody can be a part of this campaign. 

     So the first step on this is to go to ItsOnUs.org — that’sItsOnUs.org.  Take a pledge to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault.  It’s a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be part of the solution.  I took the pledge.  Joe took the pledge.  You can take the pledge.  You can share it on social media, you can encourage others to join us. 

     And this campaign is just part of a broader effort, but it’s a critical part, because even as we continue to enforce our laws and work with colleges to improve their responses, and to make sure that survivors are taken care of, it won’t be enough unless we change the culture that allows assault to happen in the first place.

     And I’m confident we can.  I’m confident because of incredible young people like Lilly who speak out for change and empower other survivors.  They inspire me to keep fighting.  I’m assuming they inspire you as well.  And this is a personal priority not just as a President, obviously, not just as a husband and a father of two extraordinary girls, but as an American who believes that our nation’s success depends on how we value and defend the rights of women and girls. 

     So I’m asking all of you, join us in this campaign.  Commit to being part of the solution.  Help make sure our schools are safe havens where everybody, men and women, can pursue their dreams and fulfill their potential.

     Thank you so much for all the great work.  (Applause.) 

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