Nightly News   |  January 26, 2014

One in Five Is Sexually Assaulted at College

A report paints a disturbing picture of the sexual assault problem on college campuses. Now, President Obama takes direct aim at this dilemma.

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>>> this past week, president obama created a new task force to focus more attention on the problem of sexual assault on college campuses. a report that says college women are at greater risk than ever before. we get more on this from nbc's rehema ellis.

>> reporter: a disturbing picture of what's happening to american women on college campuses. one in five have been sexually assaulted at college. only 12% of student victims report the assault. the president says it has to change.

>> these young women worked so hard just to get into college. so when they finally make it there only to be assaulted that is not just a nightmare for them and their families, it's an affront to everything they've worked so hard to achieve. it's totally unacceptable.

>> reporter: across the country, strong reaction from students.

>> if we teach everyone that no actually does mean no and my body is mine, we won't have this problem.

>> i think girls are sometimes scared, what kind of criticisms they would face if they were to tell others about what happened to them.

>> reporter: that's exactly what laura dunn thought.

>> i didn't know how to talk about it and actually chose to stay silent.

>> reporter: dunn says she was raped as a freshman ten years ago by two men on her own rowing team. she didn't report the crime until a year later. why? she blamed herself, because she was drunk. now, a victims' rights advocate, dunn says society has to stop demeaning victims by asking them incriminating questions.

>> when were you drunk? why were you there? what were you doing? what were you wearing? all those questions need to go away.

>> reporter: the report associates drinking on campus by men and women with increased risk of sexual assault . but the president wanted to make sure his message to young men was loud and clear.

>> i want every young man in america to feel some strong peer pressure in terms of how they are supposed to behave and treat women. that starts before they get to college.

>> reporter: for campuses nationwide, the president is promising to have new ideas on how to keep women safe from sexual assault before the semester ends. rehema ellis, nbc news, new york.