President targets sexual assault cases at colleges

Students respond after Pres. Obama speaks about sexual assault, rape

Published On: Jan 22 2014 09:01:12 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 22 2014 11:40:00 AM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

President Barack Obama is drawing attention to something often unreported in America -- sexual assault and rape, specifically of young women on college campuses.

Obama spoke Wednesday about the issue. College students and people who work with rape victims are now talking about whether they think Obama's push to combat this problem will help.

Many students at the University of North Florida are applauding the president for putting the issue in the spotlight, but they also said it's hard to stop a problem often unreported or hard to prove.

A new study put together by the White House Council on Women and Girls said one-in-five women have been sexually assaulted in college, but only 12 percent report it.

Sheila Spivey, director of the UNF Women's Center, has dealt with numerous victims as she was happy to hear the president speak about it.

"I think college age really is an age of development -- feeling like, 'Nothing is going to happen to me,' that they're invincible," said Spivey. "So until something happens, the majority of students may not focus on the issue of sexual violence."

Spivey said she believes to make a difference, Americans need to change their view from focusing on the victims and what they've done wrong to focusing on what Americans can do to prevent assault from happening all together.

The president is establishing a task force to take 90 days to come up with recommendations for college to prevent and respond to sexual assault. Young women at the UNF campus vary in how concerned they are with the reality of sexual assault.

"We make certain decisions whether to go on late night runs," said Chelsea Sepa, a student at UNF. "It definitely discourages some of our daily routine and makes us change how we do our day."

Jemina Uma, another UNF student, looks at it differently.

"Is it something women think about? Yes, but not in the sense that we're paranoid. It's not a big problem here that I see," said Uma.

The White House is also considering increasing the role of law enforcement in these cases to increase arrests, prosecutions and convictions rates. But some are saying that's easier said than done because too often are the cases he-said-she-said with minimal evidence and no witnesses.