National “It’s On Us” campaign against college sexual assault launches

By Olivia La Bianca
Student Writer

In September, President Obama and Vice President Biden launched the “It’s On Us” campaign to end sexual assault on college campuses. The campaign aims “to fundamentally shift the way people think about sexual assault, by inspiring everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it,” according to a fact sheet released by the Office of the Press Secretary.

“An estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years — one in five,” the White House website reported, in discussing the President’s speech upon the campaign’s launch.  “Of those assaults, only 12 percent are reported, and of those reported assaults, only a fraction of the offenders are punished.

“It is on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and to refuse to accept what’s unacceptable.”

The White House facilitated a telephone conference with Tina Tchen, the Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady, Lynn Rosenthal, the Senior White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, and Anne Johnson, Executive Director of Generation Progress. The conference was aimed specifically at college news centers across the United States and described the campaign in more specific detail.

Tchen began by offering some background on how the Obama administration has been addressing sexual assault and how it led to the launch of the “It’s On Us” campaign.

“In 2011, Vice President Biden and the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, introduced a comprehensive guide to help schools better understand their obligations under Federal Law to prevent and respond to sexual assault,” she said. “In January of 2014, the President and Vice President established the White House Task Force to protect students from sexual assault. In April, the Task Force released its first official report.”

This report included action steps, recommendations, and best practices in four key areas: identifying the scope of the problem through campus climate surveys, presenting campus sexual assault and engaging men, helping schools respond effectively when a student is assaulted, and improving and making more transparent the federal government’s enforcement efforts.

“On Friday, building on these recommendations and as part of the administration’s continuing effort to stamp out this violence, the President and the Vice President launched ‘It’s On Us’, a public awareness and action campaign to engage college students and all members of campus communities to prevent sexual assault on campus, and change the culture of our country’s campuses,” Tchen continued. “It really follows through on item number two from the April report: preventing sexual assault, raising awareness, and engaging men.”

“For too long, survivors and advocates have really borne the burden of carrying the fight against sexual assault and leading the charge. ‘It’s on Us’ really aims to engage everyone as a part of that effort.”

One of the ways the campaign has gone about growing awareness is through a PSA posted on the official “It’s On Us” website as well as on YouTube. “Since Friday, over 2 million people have watched the PSA. It’s been on YouTube’s top five watched videos all weekend. 37 thousand people have taken the pledge. We think that this is a terrific launch.”

Rosenthal, offered some more information on the White House Task Force. “On Friday, the Task Force released three new best practice documents that can help colleges and universities improve their response to sexual assault. These practices (which are posted on will help schools strengthen the role of Title Nine coordinators, provide supportive measures for victims, and define prohibited conduct in their student misconduct policies.

“At the same time, the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women awarded 6 million dollars to eighteen colleges with grants to develop comprehensive campus sexual assault prevention and response programs.

“We know that many organizations, schools, and campus communities have their own existing campaigns to raise awareness. “It’s on Us” will focus on empowering those current efforts and energizing new ones. We will be using effective organizing tools and creative outreach to engage everyone and ending sexual assault on campus.”

They are also focusing on K-12 schools and what they need to do to respond to and prevent sexual assault, because “prevention efforts must begin early.”

Johnson introduced one of the White House’s key collaborators on the “It’s On Us” campaign: “Our mission as an organization is to empower people to make change in their communities. This is an incredible opportunity for young people to do just that. Over the coming weeks and months, the “It’s On Us” campaign will work collaboratively with our partners on college campuses and in communities so that together we can empower young people to become part of the solution.”

Johnson also introduced a national Week of Action, set to take place during the week of Nov. 17 and including Generation Progress’s campaign sponsors. The week’s activities will include events, community discussions, pledge drives, concerts, bystander intervention training, local media events, social media action, and much more.

“This is an all hands on deck kind of campaign, and we’re really going to change the way we think about campus sexual assault, and we need to engage media entities, domestic violence prevention groups, sports organizations and teams, campus groups, local organizations,” Johnson said. “We all need to come together and shift the way we think and talk about sexual assault and we need to engage more people in this work so that we can address this crisis moving forward. We’re thrilled to be a part of the “It’s On Us” and to work with so many amazing partners who are committed to engaging young people to stand up and be a part of the solution.”

The “It’s On Us” campaign website features more information about the program, as well as the trending PSA. It also invites visitors to take the Pledge, which the website calls “a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault. It is a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be a part of the solution.” To join the thousands of Americans who have taken the pledge, visit and hit “Take The Pledge”.

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