Obama: Sexual assault 'affects every one of us'

President Obama said Wednesday that an epidemic of sexual assaults hurts all Americans, and he pushed new efforts to combat these crimes that are an affront to "basic decency and humanity."

Citing a report that says nearly one in five women -- up to 22 million people -- have been raped in their lifetimes, Obama said: "This is not an abstract problem that goes on in other families or other communities ... it affects every one of us."

The president's Council of Women and Girls issued the report that said sexual assaults are an especially big problem on college campuses, where one in five women report being a victim.

"One in five!" Obama said, later adding that "it's totally unacceptable."

Obama announced the creation of a "White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault," saying it would work with college presidents to help create safer campuses.

The commission also recommended improved law enforcement -- including higher arrest, prosecution, and conviction rates -- as well as changes in a culture that too often turns away from the problem.

"Rape and sexual assault survivors often suffer from a wide range of physical and mental health problems that can follow them for life -- including depression, chronic pain, diabetes, anxiety, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder," the report says.

Society as a whole suffers when women drop out of the school, have problems at work, or leave the military as a result of being attacked, Obama said.

The report from Obama's Council on Women and Girls also says that 1 in 71 men -- nearly 1.6 million -- have been raped.

Most victims know their attackers, the report said, and nearly 98% of assailants are men. Repeat attacks are common.

During the event to unveil the report, Vice President Biden said men have a collective responsibility to address this problem.

"No man has a right to go beyond the word 'no,'" Biden said.

The Obama administration has an ongoing effort to address an epidemic of sexual assaults in the military.

Obama discussed the issue Tuesday with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, as well as Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Biden and other administration officials.

Said Obama: "We have to keep reaching out to people who are still suffering in the shadows."


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