President Barack Obama shone a light on a college sexual assault epidemic, including rapes and gangrapes, that is often shrouded in secrecy, with victims fearing stigma, police poorly trained to investigate and universities reluctant to disclose the violence.
A White House report yesterday highlights a stunning prevalence of rape on college campuses, with 1 in 5 female students assaulted while only about 1 in 8 reports it.
"No one is more at risk of being raped or sexually assaulted than women at our nation's colleges and universities," said the report by the White House Council on Women and Girls.
Nearly 22 million American women and 1.6 million men have been raped in their lifetimes, according to the report. It chronicled the devastating effects, including depression, substance abuse and a wide range of physical ailments such as chronic pain and diabetes.
The report said campus sexual assaults are fuelled by drinking and drug use that can incapacitate victims, often at student parties at the hands of someone they know. Perpetrators often are serial offenders. One study cited by the report found that 7 percent of college men admitted to attempting rape, and 63 percent of those men admitted to multiple offences, averaging six rapes each.
Obama, who has overseen a military that has grappled with its own crisis of sexual assaults, spoke out against the crime as "an affront on our basic decency and humanity." He then signed a memorandum creating a task force to respond to campus rapes.
Obama said he was speaking out as president and a father of two daughters, and that men must express outrage to stop the crime.
"We need to encourage young people, men and women, to realise that sexual assault is simply unacceptable," Obama said. "And they're going to have to summon the bravery to stand up and say so, especially when the social pressure to keep quiet or to go along can be very intense."