CORRECTION: This story originally misreported the number of sexual offenses on the CU campus between 2010 and 2012. That number was 18.
The University of Colorado wants to be a "national leader" in aiding students who have survived sexual assault, the school said Tuesday after the release of a White House report recommending actions colleges should take to protect victims and inform the public about the magnitude of the problem.
"We want to be on the cutting edge," spokesman Ryan Huff said, adding that the school hopes to revamp its programs around Title IX education, sexual assault prevention and bystander training.
The White House's 20-page report implores schools to work on identifying confidential victim's advocates and conducting surveys to better gauge the frequency of sexual assault on their campuses.
The recommendations stem from a 90-day review by the task force that President Barack Obama created after his administration heard complaints about the poor treatment of campus rape victims and the hidden nature of such crimes.
While the report states that about 20 percent of female college students experience sexual assault, a national culture of silence — an estimated 12 percent of college women attacked report it to police — has left CU and others unable to even begin helping the vast majority of survivors.
Figures since 2013 aren't yet available, but between 2010 and 2012, CU tallied 18 campus sexual offenses.
Robert Axmacher, a spokesman for CU's police department, said the school anticipates the number of reported cases will rise in coming years.
"We want to create that culture where people feel comfortable reporting," he said. "It's encouraging that, unlike other institutions that have been under criticism for having a culture that doesn't support reporting, we've done a lot of work to encourage an environment where it does take place."
One medium for reporting on campus is the university's Office of Victim Assistance, where students who have suffered from sexual violence can get free and confidential counseling, advocacy and support.
"On a lot of campuses, you do see them having some kind of sexual assault response," said Jessica Ladd-Webert, director of the Office of Victim Assistance. "But what CU has had for almost two decades now is a dedicated, standalone office for people who've experienced trauma."
CU's efforts around sexual assault prevention include ramping up efforts to encourage third parties, or bystanders, to report sexual assaults they witness.
The school also plans to hire a new Title IX director, who will have oversight of all investigations.
Previously, student complaints and faculty complaints were handled in separate offices, but Huff said handling them under one roof will make for a "streamlined process" for reporting.
CU is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights over its handling of a reported sexual assault, in which the alleged assailant was suspended eight months from school, fined $75 and forced to write a paper reflecting on the incident. He was never charged with a crime.
Huff said Tuesday that CU is still waiting on the results of the investigation.
In 2007, CU also settled a Title IX lawsuit by awarding $2.5 million to a former student who said she was sexually assaulted by football players and recruits.
No matter how many new programs CU implements or improves upon, sophomore Emma Vogel said, the campus' culture around sexual assault won't change until the topic's discursive terrain does.
"I think it has to be talked about more, in everything," she said. "It's always placed as the woman's fault, and us talking about it in that way makes it stay that way. So these changes aren't going to be immediate. It's going to take a lot of talking."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Alex Burness at 303-473-1389, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @alex_burness.