“It’s on me. It’s on you. It’s on us — and it’s within our power to end sexual violence on campus once and for all,” said Vice President Joe Biden in relation to President Obama’s new program calledIt’s On Us. The program’s goal is to spread awareness of the epidemic of sexual violence on campuses across the country.
In 1994 the Violence Against Women Act was created by Biden in hopes of ending violence against women and holding perpetrators accountable. $1.6 billion were invested towards the prosecution of sexual crimes against women. Now, with one in five women and one in sixteen men being sexually assaulted during college according to notalone.gov, the reenvisioned It’s On Us campaign shifts its focus to be gender inclusive.
“It’s been a great success,” Biden said in a press release. “But even one attack is one too many, so I held a number of calls with hundreds of students, administrators, advocates and survivors and asked what we can do to make colleges safer.” Getting men involved was the recurring answer.
Since the campaign’s launch in 2014, over 215,000 individuals have taken the It’s On Us pledge. According to the program’s website, the pledge vows to:
Intervene instead of being a bystander.
Recognize any time consent is not — or cannot — be given, it is sexual assault and it is a crime.
Do everything you can to create an environment where sexual assault is unacceptable and all survivors are supported.
“But as far as we’ve come, the fact is that from sports leagues to pop culture to politics, our society still does not sufficiently value women,” Obama said during a press conference on Sept. 19, 2014. “We still don’t condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should. We make excuses. We look the other way. The message that sends can have a chilling effect” on young men and women.”
That’s why Obama and Biden have partnered with companies including The Pac 12, Bing, EA Sports, CMT, MTV, Microsoft, Snapchat and numerous others over the past year in hopes of reshaping societies image of what defines sexual assault.
“Additionally, 370 schools in 48 states have hosted a total of 625 It’s On Us events,” Anne Johnson, executive director of the program, said. “Furthermore, our two PSAs have garnered over 9 million views and the campaign has totaled over 3 billion impressions on social media.”
Between Nov. 8 and Nov. 14, Biden stopped at over 10 universities to gain support for the campaign. His goal was to call for a Week of Action to get more students involved.
“You have to demand that your universities be held accountable,” Biden said. “President Obama and I have made it crystal clear that schools that fail in this responsibility are in violation of Title IX and risk federal investigation and financial penalties. And each of you can make it clear that you expect nothing less.”
By encouraging partnerships with agencies including women’s health centers, local law enforcement and local rape crisis centers, the campaign hopes that by coordinating a community response, victims will receive multiple avenues of support.
“We have more to do to change the culture that asks the wrong questions, like ‘Why were you there? What were you wearing? Were you drinking?’” Biden said. “We have to ask the right questions — ‘What made him think that he could do what he did without my consent? Why on Earth did no one stop him instead of standing by? What can we do to make sure everyone has the courage to speak up, intervene, prevent and end sexual assault once and for all?’”
Despite the national campaign spreading through campuses throughout the nation, no Eugene colleges, universities or organizations have chosen to partner with the campaign. However, Lane County is equipped with several agencies that aim to spread awareness about sexual assault and aid to movement to stop the “epidemic.”
Located in Room 202 of Building 1, Lane’s Women’s Center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and provides Lane students and community members sexual assault and awareness resources. Services including crisis intervention, problem-solving, referrals to community and campus resources for students and referrals to local domestic violence service agencies can be acquired through the center.
Providing education, outreach, advocacy and support to survivors and their families of sexual violence, Sexual Assault Support Services is a Eugene-based organization that aids community members through providing resources. Offering crisis and support lines to those who have recently experienced a sexual assault, survivors of past sexual violence and friends or families can call seeking advice or help. Information and referrals to Lane County resources available by calling 541-343-7277 or 1-800-788-4727.
“You know that survivors are not statistics,” Biden said. “They’re our sisters. They’re our classmates. They’re our friends. They’re at every university, every college, in every community — large and small. For all of them, everywhere, we can and we must end sexual and dating violence on campus.”
Visit www.itsonus.org for more information.