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President Obama and Vice President Biden / Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- Nearly one in five women -- up to 22 million people -- have been raped in their lifetime, according to a report issued Wednesday by the White House Council on Women and Girls.

In receiving the report, President Obama said he has assigned a task force to address especially serious problems on college campuses where -- again -- one in five women reports being a victim of a sexual assault..

"It's totally unacceptable," Obama said.

The report cited "the dynamics of college life" as a factor, noting that many victims are "are abused while they're drunk, under the influence of drugs, passed out, or otherwise incapacitated."

Most college victims are assaulted by someone they know, mostly at parties.

This epidemic of sexual assaults hurts all Americans, Obama said as he pushed new efforts to combat these crimes he called an affront to "basic decency and humanity."

"This is not an abstract problem that goes on in other families or other communities. ... It affects every one of us."

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.

Citing government data, the report from the White House Council on Women and Girls 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.

While women of all races are targeted, some groups are more targeted than others: 33.5% of multiracial women have been raped, according to the report, as have 27% of American Indian and Alaska Native women, 15% of Hispanic, 22% of black and 19% of white women.

Most victims are young. The report said nearly half the women who survived were raped before they were 18; more than one-quarter of male survivors suffered attacks before the age of ten.

Analysts have also estimated the economic costs of sexual assault, based on such items as medical expenses, law enforcement costs and lost productivity. Estimates have ranged from $87,000 to $240,776 per rape, the report said.

The committee also recommended maintaining and expanding services like crisis intervention, counseling, legal advocacy, medical help, and job and housing services.

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."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Obama: Sexual assault 'affects every one of us'

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