White House: ‘It’s on Us’ to Prevent Campus Sexual Assault

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White House: ‘It’s on Us’ to Prevent Campus Sexual Assault

Martha Kempner

The Obama administration's new campaign suggests that every member of the campus community has a role to play in changing the culture of sexual assault that has gone unchecked for too long.

Read more of our articles on consent and sexual assault on U.S. college campuses here.

The Obama administration is launching a new campaign Friday in its ongoing effort to tackle the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. The campaign, called It’s On Us, suggests that every member of the campus community has a role to play in changing the culture of sexual assault that has gone unchecked for too long.

Created in conjunction with the Center for American Progress, the campaign will be officially launched at a Friday afternoon event attended by both President Obama and Vice President Biden.

Early indications from the White House suggest that the campaign will focus on the role of bystanders and emphasize the importance of everyone stepping in. The White House told reporters, “The campaign reflects a belief that sexual assault isn’t just an issue involving a crime committed by a perpetrator against a victim, but one in which the rest of us also have a role to play.” To that end, the website, which went live on Friday morning, asks visitors to take the following pledge:

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I pledge: To RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault. To IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur. To INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. To CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

It also provides 13 tips for helping to stop sexual assault, including:

  • Trust your gut. If something looks like it might be a bad situation, it probably is.
  • Get someone to help you if you see something—enlist a friend, RA, bartender, or host to help step in.
  • Get in the way by creating a distraction, drawing attention to the situation, or separating them.
  • If you see someone who is too intoxicated to consent, enlist their friends to help them leave safely.
  • Never blame the victim.

The campaign also includes public service announcements. One will be played for the first time at the launch event and is said to include numerous celebrities, including actors Jon Hamm and Kerry Washington, basketball star Kevin Love, and musicians Randy Jackson and Questlove. It will be played again at a number of college football games this weekend.

The campaign is the latest in a series of steps the Obama administration has taken this year to call attention to—and help solve—the problem of sexual assault on campus. In January, President Obama announced a new White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, saying at the time, “Sexual violence is more than just a crime against individuals. It threatens our families, it threatens our communities; ultimately, it threatens the entire country.” In April, the task force released a report called Not Alone, which said the task force would work with the colleges and universities to provide best practices for both preventing and responding to sexual assault; build on the federal government’s enforcement efforts to ensure schools are meeting all legal requirements; improve transparency of the government’s enforcement activities; and enhance coordination among federal agencies to hold schools accountable.

In May, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of the higher education institutions under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.

With this campaign, however, the White House is targeting not just administrators but students as well, and is hoping that if we all share the burden we may be able to change the social norms and behaviors that make campus rape so prevalent.