Justice News

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole Speaks at the Department of Justice’s 2014 Nationwide Tour to Raise Awareness of Sexual Assault on College Campuses
Washington, DC
United States
Thursday, April 24, 2014

Good morning.  As most of you know, President Obama took an unprecedented step this year in his effort to address campus sexual assault. In January, the President established the “White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.” The Task Force was charged with sharing best practices, and increasing transparency, enforcement, public awareness, and interagency coordination to prevent violence and support survivors.

At the same time, the White House issued a report that highlights the startling campus sexual assault statistics that you all know too well -- that students experience some of the highest rates of sexual assault. This violence, and the stress, fear and mental health challenges that often follow, combine to increase dropout rates and limit opportunities for success in college for women and girls.

In discussing the Task Force, the President said, “ We need to keep saying to anyone out there who has ever been assaulted — you are not alone. You will never be alone. We’ve got your back. I’ve got your back.” It is that pledge that has brought me here today.

This next year marks the 20th anniversary of President Bill Clinton’s signing of the Violence Against Women Act into law. It also marks the 20th anniversary of the creation of the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women (OVW), which has helped to provide funding for the programs we will discuss today.

My visit is part of a nationwide university tour by administration officials to raise awareness of campus sexual assault. We will visit a dozen schools across the country to meet with students and faculty like you.  Many schools are working every day to fight intimate partner and sexual violence on campus and to train young people about how to prevent and report this type of activity.  We want to make sure that survivors everywhere know that they have a place – and a voice.  Survivors have this Administration’s commitment to build toward a future where domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking and teen dating violence are eradicated. 

As the White House report described, we know that when young people witness or are victims of violence, they pay the price for many years to come. We also know that campuses face unique challenges. We have heard from many on college campuses about these challenges, and that’s why the OVW campus program was created -- to deal with the specific issues you face. 

While we believe that the federal government has an important role to play, we also know that the government -– alone -- cannot stop violence on campus.  It is essential to develop campus-based coordinated responses that include campus victim services, campus law enforcement, health providers, housing officials, administrators, student leaders, faith-based organizations, student organizations, and disciplinary boards.

To succeed, this coordinated response must be linked to local criminal justice agencies and service providers.  We must capitalize on the expertise of local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors’ offices, the courts, and nonprofit, nongovernmental victim advocacy and services agencies. 

In recognition of the importance of these joint efforts, the campus tours conducted across the country are highlighting DOJ grantees who have invested in developing coordinated community response (CCR) teams to comprehensively address sexual assault on their campus.

That is why I am so honored to be here with you today at Gallaudet.  This morning, I want to thank you on behalf of the President, the Attorney General, and all of us in the Administration for your hard work and dedication. 

I know that all of you here are personally and professionally affected when intimate and sexual violence occurs on your campus. You see the impact in your campus community, you support the victims, and you work to take the appropriate action when a crime occurs. I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation – for meeting with me today and, more importantly, for being part of the solution.

If we are truly going to take advantage of the national spotlight cast by the President, then we need to do more than raise awareness. We need to take affirmative steps to transform awareness and advocacy into action. We must commit ourselves to strengthening programs and services -- not just for the students enrolled today -- but for future Gallaudet students.

This morning, I am not here just to talk. I want to learn from you all what is working.   What are the best practices playing out here that we can share with other schools?  Where are the challenges to success and how can we work together to overcome them?  How are you integrating the changing pace of social media and technology into your prevention and intervention programs?  I welcome an honest and frank discussion, as it will help me be better at doing my job of protecting the American people. 

Updated September 17, 2014