President Barack Obama deserves credit for making the war against sexual assault on college campuses a top priority of his administration. In January, he created a task force of senior officials to coordinate federal enforcement efforts. And this month he created a government-run website, notalone.gov, which will provide resources for students, help for victims and help track enforcement efforts.
“Perhaps most important, we need to keep saying to anyone out there that has ever been assaulted: you are not alone,” said President Obama. “We have your back. I’ve got your back.”
It’s time for the White House to show it also has the back of children who undergo the horror of sexual abuse, by taking real action.
I know the president takes these matters very seriously. He declared April National Child Abuse Prevention Month, vowing that “We all have a role to play in preventing child abuse and neglect and in helping young victims recover,” and encouraging Americans to look for warning signs such as changes in behavior and performance, untreated physical or medical issues, lack of adult supervision, and constant alertness. Resources are also available on the Administration for Children and Families’ website.
But just as it was important to up the ante against date rape or assaults in the military, it’s past time for tougher action, on both the federal and state level against the abuse of the weakest segment of our society.
Isn’t the ability to quickly identify unsafe situations, loudly and clearly say “No!” to a potential abuser and/or quickly tell a trusted adult about the abuse of equal importance to our children’s future as the mastery of scholastic skills? Even more so, when we consider that children who suffer abuse will often not only fall behind academically but are more prone to dysfunctional or even criminal behavior as adults, including the abuse of others.
I hope President Obama will go beyond awareness months and speeches and begin to treat sexual and other forms or abuse against children as the public health hazard that it is.