A new sexual assault prevention campaign entitled, “It’s On Us,” was launched during a White House event on Sept. 19. The campaign, initiated by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, encourages student bystanders to intervene in cases where it is likely that sexual assault will occur. This follows an onslaught of complaints by students that college administrators mishandled sexual assault cases, which shook notable UC campuses such as UCLA, Berkeley and Santa Barbara in recent years.
The U.S. Department of Justice will provide $6 million grants to 18 campuses that develop comprehensive sexual assault prevention and response policies. The funds could also potentially set up “best practices” for universities to follow when assisting student survivors of sexual assault. Other legislative measures such as the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which was recently introduced to the U.S. Senate, also aim to hold institutions financially accountable for the mishandlings of sexual assault cases.
Lilly Jay, a sexual assault survivor and Amherst College student, opened the White House event by emphasizing the roles of non-survivor voices and allies in the fight against sexual assault and saying, “Only together can we ensure that when we look back can we say: It was compassion, not trauma that changed the world.”
The topic of sexual violence continued to grab national headlines as UC students lobbied at this year’s Student Lobby Conference on bills such as “Yes Means Yes,” (SB 967), which passed in the Senate just last month. The measure lays down the concept of “affirmative consent,” which requires students to obtain “affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” If signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the measure would create a standard for defining sexual assault on college campuses.
Earlier this month, a UC task force released a report on sexual assault prevention and assault that included a notable recommendation that includes mandatory education about sexual assault, domestic violence, dating and stalking to all incoming UC students.
In response to the recent White House campaign, Interim Director of UCR’s Women’s Resource Center (WRC) Romanie Arterberry said, “(It’s On Us) brings attention to an (increasing) area of concern on college campuses,” but feels that more can be done to spread awareness on campus. With the belief that sexual violence prevention is a campuswide effort, Arterberry added that it is also an individual responsibility when it comes to preventing sexual assault.
To find out more about the “It’s On Us” campaign, visit the campaign website at www.itsonus.org. The WRC is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m and provides leadership, safety and support services to the entire student body.