Joe Biden calls on male college students to help prevent sexual assault

This week, Vice President Joe Biden visited the University of Illinois, at Urbana-Champaign and, as the Chicago Tribune reports, had some powerful words for the students (in particular, his male audience) on the subject of sexual assault.

“Gentlemen, silence is a form of approval,” he said. “You all know the difference between right and wrong . . . We measure the decency of a nation by whether it condemns or condones this kind of behavior.”

Biden visited U of I to promote President Barack Obama’s “It’s On Us” initiative, launched last year, which calls on all of us to help end sexual violence. The campaign recently reached an impressive milestone: more than 200,000 people have taken the “It’s On Us” pledge, a “personal commitment to keep men and women safe from sexual assault.”

According to a White House Task Force, 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in college (more often than not by someone she knows), while only 12% of those assaults are reported, and a fraction of assaulters are brought to justice. By raising sexual assault awareness and galvanizing Americans into supporting survivors and working to prevent assaults in the first place, “It’s On Us” is hoping to change these dismal stats.

In his speech, Biden particularly focused on men needing to step up and do their part to demolish rape culture.

“Step in, yell or holler, call somebody. Do whatever it takes to stop it,” was Biden’s advice to the male students listening, in the event that they perceive a woman is in danger of being assaulted. “Guys, it’s time for all of you to step up. Show some courage and be the man you were raised to be.”

Though Biden made a particular point of making sure the young men in the audience understood their responsibility, ultimately #ItsOnUs is about all of us working to end sexual violence.

“This is not something that is beyond our power, if we act, if we step up, if we all take responsibility,” Biden said.

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