Every two minutes, someone in the United States is sexually assaulted, adding up to over 230,000 people each year (RAINN, 2014). Even in places that should be safe places for men and women, such as college campuses, sexual assaults are occurring at alarming rates. For people of both sexes and all genders, staying late at the library or even walking across campus at night unaccompanied is a more dangerous act than it should be. Even though most colleges provide drug, alcohol, and sexual assault awareness programs for first year students, sexual assault on campus isn’t addressed as much as it should be. However, The White House has taken a stand against sexual assault on college campuses and has created a new campaign to educate and help protect people affected by sexual assault.
It’s On Us is the newest initiative developed by the White House that is trying to combat sexual assault on college campuses. It’s estimated that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during her college career, making it even more imperative that we find a solution and put an end to it. It’s On Us was created in order to change the way that universities, colleges, and society view sexual assault and how they handle it once it has occurred (White House, 2014).
With the release of It’s On Us, President Obama reminded his audience why the campaign is and has become a necessity for modern society: “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. 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” (White House, 2014).
While both President Obama and Vice President Biden spoke on behalf of the initiative, The White House also released a Public Service Announcement to accompany it, featuring celebrities such as Jon Hamm, Joel McHale, Connie Britton, and Kerry Washington. The PSA explains that sexual assault is something that can be prevented, because, as the name implies, this crime isn’t just a women’s problem, it’s a problem everyone should be combatting because sexual assault isn’t sex specific. The PSA reminds viewers that the responsibility is on us all to prevent sexual assault- whether it’s getting a friend home safe or standing up for victims. We have the potential to change the way that sexual assault is seen.
In addition to the star-studded public service announcement, the Obama Administration has taken additional steps to address the way that sexual assault is handled on college campuses around the country. According to the White House website, the It’s On Us initiative includes sending all federally funded school district, college, and university guidelines on “their legal obligations to prevent and respond to sexual assault” (White House, 2014). There has also been the additional creation of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, which is designed to create dialogue between the government and universities on how to best respond to and prevent sexual assault (White House, 2014). Finally, the White House has spent time reviewing and revising laws to make sure they provide proper protection for victims in the event of assault.
Sexual assault is a serious issue that can’t be ignored, especially since twenty percent of women, along with some men, will be directly affected by it while they are at university. The White House is stepping up by creating a dialogue and sparking actions to prevent sexual assault. Even though the rest of us may not have the power to revise laws or film celebrity advertisements, we can join the movement by adding our voices, taking action, and changing the way we think about sexual assault, because when we come together to fight sexual assault, we have the power to change the world.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault at Colorado State University, please contact the Women and Gender Advocacy Center at 970-491-6384 or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.
Maddie Gallegos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.