President Obama: “It’s On Us” to Prevent Campus Rape

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In a further attempt to bring campus sexual assault into the national conversation, President Obama launched the It’s On Us campaign Friday, a national public service campaign that urges college students to combat sexual assault on their campuses. Calling for a “fundamental shift in our culture,” Obama, joined by Vice President Biden in the East Room of the White House, affirmed that all Americans should feel responsible for preventing sexual violence:

Campus sexual assault is no longer something we as a nation can turn away from and say, ‘that’s not our problem,’…It is not just on parents of young women to caution them, it is on the parents of young men to teach them respect for women. It is on grown men to set an example and be clear about what it means to be a man. … It is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable.

Along with a campaign website, itsonus.org, that encourages people to pledge to “not be a bystander to the problem,” the White House also produced a 30-second public service announcement about the new campaign that features celebrities such as Kerry Washington, Jon Hamm, Connie Britton, Questlove and Kevin Love. Several media groups have signed on to help spread the message of the It’s On Us campaign including MTV, VH1 and College Humor. The #ItsOnUs hashtag has already taken off on Twitter with Olivia Munn, Mayim Bialik, Grant Hill and the Big 12 Conference tweeting out their support for the initiative.

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With an astounding one in five women being sexually assaulted during their time in college, the Obama administration has shown a lot of leadership around making America’s college campuses safer for young women. Earlier this year, it created the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault and the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 55 colleges and universities under investigation for mishandling sexual violence cases.

The launch of the It’s On Us campaign comes on the heels of other good news out of California. The University of California school system launched a task force and presented new guidelines for preventing campus rape earlier this week. Introducing systemwide standards for sexual assault investigations, the new guidelines include mandatory training of students and faculty on sexual violence prevention.

For more on the campus sexual assault crisis, read Donna Brazile’s column, “There Are No Perks in Being a ‘Victim,’” in the new issue of Ms.

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Anita Little is the associate editor at Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

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