Since the beginning of this Administration, the President and Vice President have made it a priority to root out sexual violence wherever it exists, especially in our nation’s schools. In April 2011, Vice President Biden and the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, introduced comprehensive guidance to help colleges and universities nationwide better understand their obligations under federal civil rights laws to prevent and respond to sexual assault on campus.
Building on those efforts, in January 2014, the President and Vice President established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. The Task Force has since worked to assist schools in preventing sexual assault and to provide practical tools to help. Today’s announcement is a critical part of the Administration’s work to prevent sexual assault, but it is not the final step. Our efforts to improve enforcement, transparency, and accountability will continue.
Launching “It’s On Us”
In April, after 27 listening sessions with stakeholders across the country, the Task Force launched the 1is2many PSA aimed at spreading the word that one victim is too many and released the “Not Alone” report to help empower and equip student and administrative bodies to better understand and more effectively tackle the issue. The report included action steps, recommendations, and best practices in four key areas:
(1) Identifying the scope of the problem through campus climate surveys
(2) Preventing campus sexual assault and engaging men
(3) Helping schools respond effectively when a student is assaulted
(4) Improving, and making more transparent, the federal government’s enforcement efforts
Today, to advance the goal of preventing sexual assault, the President and Vice President will unveil a new public awareness and education campaign: “It’s On Us.” The campaign seeks to engage college students and all members of campus communities in preventing sexual assault in the first place. The campaign is being launched in partnership with the Center for American Progress’ Generation Progress, along with student body leadership from nearly 200 colleges and universities across the country, collegiate sports organizations such as the NCAA, and private companies that have strong connections with students at colleges and universities.
“It’s On Us” aims to fundamentally shift the way we think about sexual assault, by inspiring everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it. The campaign reflects the 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. We are committed to creating an environment – be it a dorm room, a party, a bar or club, or the greater college campus – where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported. This effort will support student-led efforts already underway across the country, and will focus particularly on motivating college men to get involved.
Most men are not comfortable with violence against women, but often don’t speak out because they believe that other men accept this behavior. By getting men involved, we can change this way of thinking and create new social norms. Research shows that bystander intervention can be an effective way of stopping sexual assault before it happens, as bystanders play a key role in preventing, discouraging, and/or intervening when an act of violence has the potential to occur. As the latest CDC report on preventing campus sexual violence shows, wide-ranging, population-based strategies like bystander intervention – which address individual, community, campus, and societal-level factors – have the greatest potential to effect positive and meaningful change. Bystander education and training aims to heighten awareness, challenge social norms, decrease misperceptions about sexual assault, and provide skills that increase one’s confidence to intervene effectively.
Ongoing Task Force Efforts
“It’s On Us” is a critical step forward in the Administration’s multipronged approach to combat sexual assault that includes improved enforcement of federal laws and practical help for schools. This campaign will complement efforts schools should be undertaking to hold perpetrators accountable and assist students who have experienced sexual assault. As part of this ongoing approach, on Friday the Task Force also will release three new best practices documents that can help colleges and universities improve their response to sexual assault. These documents, which will be posted on NotAlone.gov, will provide sample policy language to help schools strengthen the role of Title IX coordinators; provide interim and supportive measures for victims; and, define prohibited conduct in their sexual misconduct policies. The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women will also award over $6 million to 18 colleges with grants to develop comprehensive campus sexual assault prevention and response programs.
We know that prevention efforts must also begin early. The Task Force is working to identify how its recommendations apply to K-12 schools, and has kicked off a series of listening sessions to engage stakeholders in this conversation. The Department of Education continues to work with school districts, colleges and universities to improve the response to sexual assault including through comprehensive remedies requiring schools to conduct climate surveys, train students and employees, and provide prompt and equitable relief to victims.
We also recognize that many organizations, schools and campus communities have their own campaigns to raise awareness, both about sexual assault generally and more specifically in college. “It’s On Us” will focus on empowering these current efforts and energizing new ones, by giving student bodies the tools they need to organize and spread the word, from the ground up. Going forward, we will work closely with all stakeholders to use effective organizing tools and creative outreach to engage all Americans in ending sexual assault.
“It’s On Us” Partners
In order to launch this public-private partnership, we have supported the engagement of a broad range of “It’s On Us” partners, including media platforms, the college sports community, student leaders, athletes, celebrities, and other stakeholders. “It’s On Us” partners have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Center for American Progress to be a part of the “It’s On Us” campaign through Generation Progress. “It’s On Us” partners will support the campaign in a number a ways, including but not limited to:
Examples of commitments being announced by “It’s On Us” partners today include:
“It’s On Us” partners include, American Association of University Women, Athletic Coast Conference, Atlantic 10, Big Ten, Big Twelve, Clear Channel – iHeart Radio, College Humor, Conversant Media, Electronic Arts, Everfi, Generation Progress, Mekanism, Men Can Stop Rape, Participant Media, Microsoft – Bing, NCAA, National Campus Leadership Council, Newsweek, National Women’s Law Center, On Campus Media, Only With Consent, Our Time, Pac 12, Park Pictures, PVBLIC, RAINN, SB Nation, The Mill, Tumblr, Ultraviolet, USA Characters Unite, United States Olympic Committee, Verifone Media and Viacom, which includes VH1, MTV, BET, CMT, and Spike.
If you or someone you know is in need of support, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, visit here to chat live.