During the Grammys on Sunday, President Obama urged Americans to do everything in their power to prevent sexual violence. “It’s not okay, and it has to stop,” the president said in the public service announcement.
The president’s video is part of the “It’s On Us” campaign started by the White House in September to combat sexual assault on college campuses. Research shows that one in five women in the U.S. experience rape or attempted rape in college, and one in 16 men also experience some type of sexual assault. Meanwhile, 80%of campus rapes went unreported to the authorities, according to the Justice Department. Previous ads, which have featured celebrities like Kerry Washington, have urged bystander intervention to prevent rape from happening in the first place.
Though the White House acknowledges it may not be able to alter the behavior of assailants (studies show that rapists are more often than not repeat offenders, assaulting an average of six victims), it can change the behavior of bystanders by teaching them what a dangerous situation looks like and encouraging them to act. President Obama’s spot encourages such personal responsibility. “It’s on us — all of us — to create a culture where violence isn’t tolerated, where survivors are supported, and where all our young people — men and women — can go as far as their talents and their dreams will take them,” he said.
After the announcement, a woman named Brooke Axtell told her own story of domestic violence; she sought help at a shelter after telling her mother that her partner threatened to kill her. “Authentic love does not devalue another human being,” she said to the crowd. “Authentic love does not silence shame and abuse.”
Along with the campaign, the White House has also begun to conduct investigations at colleges and universities across the country that students claim are not properly handling sexual assault cases or reporting the rapes that do occur on campuses. As of December, 92 schools were under investigation for violations of Title IX, a law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in schools.
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