President Obama announced a new task force that will combat sexual assault, particularly on college campuses, he said in his weekly address.
“Sexual assault is an affront to our basic decency and humanity,” Obama said. “And it’s about all of us – the safety of those we love most: our moms, our wives, our daughters and our sons.”
The White House Task Force on Protecting Students from Sexual Assault aims to “help schools do a better job of preventing and responding to sexual assault” on campuses. The president also pledged to continue strengthening the criminal justice system and to enhance survivor outreach programs.
On Saturday, Obama sought to personalize his effort to curb sexual assaults.
“Some of this is a job for government. But really, it’s up to all of us,” he said. “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,” he continued. “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.”
The announcement comes a month after Obama gave the Pentagon one year to show progress in curbing sexual assault within its ranks.
Obama said he would direct Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey to “continue their efforts to make substantial improvements with respect to sexual assault prevention and response, including to the military justice system.”
“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,” Obama said Saturday.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who led a congressional effort this year to impose deep reforms on the military’s justice system, has criticized the president for not going further in his efforts to reform the military.
“I’m going to keep pushing for others to step up – across my administration, in Congress, in state capitals, college campuses and military bases all across our country,” he declared. “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."
This story was updated at 10:10 a.m.