Obama says 'whole country' held back by sexual assault

Jan. 25, 2014 at 6:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- President Obama said Saturday his administration will bolster the criminal justice system, reach out to survivors and change social norms to end sexual assault.

In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said the government has taken another important step to protect women at college by establishing the White House Task Force on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault.

"This week, I called members of my Cabinet to the White House to deal with a challenge that affects so many families and communities -- the crime, the outrage, of sexual violence," Obama said.

"Sexual assault is an affront to our basic decency and humanity. And it's about all of us -- the safety of those we love most: our moms, our wives, our daughters and our sons.

"Because when a child starts to question their self-worth after being abused, and maybe starts withdrawing, or a young woman drops out of school after being attacked, or a mother struggles to hold down a job and support her kids after an assault, it's not just these individuals and their families who suffer. Our communities -- our whole country -- is held back.

"Over the past five years, we've stepped up our efforts stop these crimes. ... We're going to help schools do a better job of preventing and responding to sexual assault on their campuses. Because college should be a place where our young people feel secure and confident, so they can go as far as their talents will take them.

"And we're going to keep working to stop sexual assaults wherever they occur. We'll keep strengthening our criminal justice system, so police and prosecutors have the tools and training to prevent these crimes and bring perpetrators to justice. We'll keep reaching out to survivors, to make sure they're getting all the support they need to heal. We're going to keep combating sexual assault in our armed forces, because when a member of our military is attacked by the very people he or she trusts and serves with, that's an injustice that no one who volunteers to protect our nation should ever endure.

"Some of this is a job for government. But really, it's up to all of us. We've got to teach young people -- men and women -- to be brave enough to stand up and help put an end to these crimes. We've especially got to teach young men to show women the respect they deserve. I want every young man in America to know that real men don't hurt women. And those of us who are fathers have a special obligation to make sure every young man out there understands that being a man means recognizing sexual violence and being outraged by it, and doing their part to stop it.

"Perhaps most important, we need to keep saying to anyone out there who has ever been assaulted: you are not alone. We have your back. I've got your back. ...

"This is a priority for me, not only as president and commander in chief, but as a husband and a father of two extraordinary girls. And I hope it's a priority for you. Because here in the United States of America, every man and woman, every girl and boy, has the right to be safe and protected and to pursue their own piece of the American dream," the president said.

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