Last Friday, President Obama and Vice President Biden joined leaders from universities, media companies, the sports world, and grassroots organizations to launch the "It’s On Us" campaign against sexual assault on college campuses. "It’s On Us" is a rallying cry, inviting everyone to step up and realize that the solution begins with us. It seeks to reframe the conversation surrounding sexual assault in a way that inspires everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it.
Studies estimate that one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college. Most often, the act occurs in her freshman or sophomore year, usually by someone she knows. And only 13 percent of rape survivors report their assault. The culture of violence and silence at our college campuses contradicts everything we stand for as a country.
In launching "It’s On Us" last Friday, President Obama said, “To the survivors who are leading the fight against sexual assault on campuses, your efforts have helped start a movement. I can only imagine how long and lonely your fight must feel. And that’s why we’re all here today -- to say that it’s not on you; it’s not your fight to wage alone; it’s on us -- all of us -- to fight campus sexual assault. You are not alone. We’ve got your back.” And as a groundswell of interest and momentum that we’ve seen in just the initial first days of launching this campaign, it’s clear that Americans across the country really do have their back.
As of Friday, the National Campus Leadership Council had worked to sign up 203 campuses to run student-led "It’s On Us" campaigns. In just four days, that number has jumped to 233 campuses nationwide. The PSA that launched on Friday already has more than 3 million views on YouTube and Facebook. Celebrities and athletes like Kerry Washington, Alex Morgan, Kevin Love, Joel McHale, and many others tweeted to more than 33 million followers on Twitter and reached millions more through Facebook and Instagram.
"It’s On Us" provides organizing tools for campuses and communities, and already we’ve seen great things happening. Stanford and George Washington created their own PSAs featuring campus leaders, and Michigan State played the PSA to tens of thousands of Spartans fans at their football game Saturday. And earlier today, Valerie Jarrett, the Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls and Tina Tchen, the Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls, met with student leaders from colleges and universities in New York City to discuss “It’s On Us” and efforts already underway on their campuses to spread this message far and wide.
This is just the beginning. There are years of work left to win this fight and millions more that need to sign the pledge to be a part of the solution. In the end, this problem will not be solved until our society creates a culture where everyone works to build an environment in which sexual assault is a thing of the past.
It’s on us to realize we all have a role to play in preventing sexual assault. It’s on us to embrace the responsibility we have to stand up for the safety of those around us—to challenge each other to do everything we can to make our college campuses safe.
If you haven’t already, join the movement, spread the word, and take the pledge at ItsOnUs.org.
It’s on us. All of us.
And check out what folks are saying about the launch of "It’s On Us":
Sen. Blumenthal: “I was thrilled and inspired to be with both the President and Vice President as they powerfully opened this new initiative in the campaign against sexual assault and domestic violence. They were emphatic and eloquent in committing federal power and resources to address the scourge of sexual assault on college campuses. Fighting sexual assault shouldn't be only on survivors. It’s on all of us – all of our obligation.” “At my college roundtables across Connecticut, I have heard from students, staff, advocates and law enforcement that awareness and intervention are critical to preventing sexual assault. The Administration’s ‘It’s On Us’ campaign engages the campus community and empowers all students – especially young men – to play a role in preventing sexual assault. This approach works. At places like Connecticut College, students, administrators and student-athletes have implemented the Green Dot program to shift awareness and create a culture that rejects sexual assault. In many Connecticut campuses, significant progress is being made, but we have a long way to go – in our state and nationally – to change campus culture and broader views on sexual assault. ‘It’s On Us’ will jumpstart that conversation.”[Senator Blumenthal Press Release, 9/19/14]
Sen. McCaskill: “I’m grateful the White House is continuing to direct much-needed attention to the issue of sexual violence on our college campuses.” “If we’re going to turn the tide against such violence, we need the type of cultural shift that the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign aims to bring about. But change doesn’t happen quickly, which is why we need to pass our bipartisan legislation that will help curb these crimes, protect and empower students, and ensure perpetrators are held accountable.” [KSPR 33, 9/19/14]
Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade: “It is appropriate for the Atlantic 10 to be at the forefront in addressing and combating this issue, which undermines the fundamental goal of ensuring the safety of all students, including student-athletes.” “Intercollegiate athletics programs have unique positioning within the campus environment, which provides the opportunity to influence the issue of sexual assault not only within the athletics community, but within the broader student community as well. The A-10 is proud to join this coalition and offer our resources and assets to spread the word and raise awareness of this issue.” [Atlantic 10 Press Release, 9/19/2014]
National Campus Leadership Council Executive Director Andy MacCracken: "Student body presidents and their teams from around the country are coming together to say it’s on all of us to stop sexual assault.” “We’re talking about a seismic shift in how communities deal with sexual violence as the country looks to students for leadership on such an important issue." [InTheCapital, 9/19/2014]
NCAA Statement: “NCAA, White House partner to combat sexual violence on campus” “The NCAA is an Advisory Board sponsor for the campaign. In this role, in addition to promoting It’s On Us and encouraging its 1,100 member schools to join the effort, the Association will include a half-day educational session for its member schools at its annual Convention in January in Washington, D.C. Additionally, it’s On Us public service announcements will be broadcast to college sports fans attending NCAA championship events. For the NCAA, taking part in It’s On Us is the latest step in seeking solutions to this issue. In August the NCAA Executive Committee – the Association’s highest governance body, composed of university presidents from Division I, Division II and Division II – passed a resolution encouraging athletics departments to actively partner with the rest of campus to combat sexual violence.” [NCAA Press Release, 9/19/2014]
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott: “The Pac-12 is proud to join this effort to build a culture on college campuses in which everyone has a responsibility to stop sexual violence.” “Our member institutions are very focused on this issue and we see a great opportunity to use the visibility of college athletics as a means to raise awareness and promote this campaign.” [Pac-12 Press Release, 9/19/14]
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network President and Founder Scott Berkowitz: "One of the most effective ways to prevent rape is to mobilize men and women on campus to join together in stopping perpetrators before they can commit a crime. RAINN has joined the It's On Us campaign as a partner to help bring attention to the important role that students play in keeping their friends safe and in preventing rape on campus.” “President Obama today launched It’s On Us, a campaign to reduce rape on college campuses. The president, along with Vice President Joseph Biden, called on students to sign a pledge to commit to helping keep their friends safe. To survivors of campus sexual assault, President Obama said, “It’s not on you; this is not your fight alone. This is on all of us, every one one of us, to fight campus sexual assault. You are not alone, and we have your back.” [RAINN Press Release, 9/19/14]
SB Nation Statement: “SB Nation and Vox Media are partnering with Generation Progress to support the "It's On Us" campaign.” "It's On Us" is a movement aimed at changing the way we think about sexual assault. The campaign, in coordination with the White House, is encouraging everyone to step up and realize that the solution begins with us. It's the acknowledgement that sexual assault isn't just an issue involving a victim and a perpetrator, but one that involves us all. It means taking responsibility for ourselves and each other. Speaking up when someone needs help. Looking out for someone who can't consent.” [SB Nation Press Release, 9/19/14]
The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence President Monika Johnson Hostler: “Although rapists are ultimately responsible for sexual assault and must be held accountable there is a place for all of us to take collective responsibility for ending this violence. ‘It’s On Us’ is a proactive approach to engage each and every one of us in taking steps both big and small to make college campuses safer and more responsive to survivors.” “The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence supports the ongoing efforts of President Obama and Vice-President Biden to combat sexual assault on college campuses. The “It’s On Us” Awareness Campaign is a great launching pad to further efforts to address this pervasive problem across the country. “It’s On Us” was developed to “create positive social pressure increasing awareness, participation, and influence” toward ending sexual assault at our colleges and universities.” [The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence Press Release, 9/19/14]
The George Washington University Director of Athletics and Recreation Patrick Nero: "The statistics are shockingly clear. Sexual assault is occurring at an alarming rate on college campuses across our country." "It is time to shine a strong light on this issue and to all work together to put an end to it. Our students and student-athletes can play a role in encouraging dialogue and action on this issue. We see this as an opportunity for them to take the lead on an issue so critical in our society." [GWU Athletics Press Release, 9/19/14]
Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon: “Sexual violence is not met with indifference on our campus; that goes against everything Michigan State University stands for. This is our challenge and a problem that requires our intervention — every single one of us in this community. We cannot be passive observers.” “The campaign, which the White House is rolling out and communicating directly to student groups on MSU’s campus, will focus on bystander intervention, particularly among men. “It's On Us” will use social media and partnerships with colleges and private partners nationwide to attempt to create a culture where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.” [Michigan State University Press Release, 9/19/14]
Rutgers University Director of Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance RuthAnn Koenick: “I certainly am in support of men being in support of a sexual prevention movement.” "I think that men speak to other men in a way that’s very different than I can speak to them. Anything that gets people talking about sexual assault and taking a sense of community responsibility... is positive.” [International Business Times, 9/19/14]
Stanford University Provost John Etchemendy: At Stanford, we believe all students should be able to study and live in an atmosphere free of harassment, sexual violence and gender discrimination." "No one – man or woman – should ever feel intimidated or threatened on the Stanford campus, or fear that they will be victimized on the basis of sex or gender. Everyone should feel confident that others would stand up and support them if they were victimized. And I want you to know that if sexual violence of any type is reported on this campus, we investigate to the best of our ability and hold the perpetrators accountable for their actions. Everyone on this campus has a right to feel safe.” [Stanford University Press Release, 9/18/2014]
The University of Dayton Sexual Violence Prevention Education Coordinator Kristen Altenau Keen: "The University of Dayton takes sexual violence prevention education seriously. We have our incoming students participate in the Haven program because we feel it's important to emphasize sexual violence prevention before they even set foot on campus.” "We want our students to be prepared to have conversations about sexual violence prevention when they arrive on campus and be equipped with the skills to recognize when bystander intervention is needed. At the University of Dayton, community is central to our mission. We want everyone on campus to understand we need their help in this effort." [EverFi Press Release, 9/19/14]