It’s On All of Us: A visit & reminder from Vice President Biden

10.05.2015

The Ohio State University was host to a very special guest on the evening of September 17, 2015. That guest being Vice President Joe Biden, who came to the Jesse Owens South Recreational Center for on anniversary of the It’s on Us campaign that he and President Obama initiated. It’s On Us was set up to help prevent and reduce the number of sexual assaults that occur on college campuses around the country. Students from each participating school take the pledge to prevent such a horrendous event from happening, and Ohio State is the school who has the most student pledges out of the Big Ten Conference.

Students-,myself included, waited in line to secure a limited spot at the event and experience  an evening filled with other buckeyes to celebrate the campaign. Student leaders from around the university that works directly with It’s On Us and preventing sexual assault in and around campus gathered together in solidarity as we watched performances made by groups such as The Ohio State Women’s Glee club and of course Brutus Buckeye got students hyped up for our upcoming speakers. This is a great campaign to be a part of. When it was created a year ago I took the pledge as soon as I discovered what the campaign was about. I felt that it was a priority to start taking a stand against this horrendous act. It affects too many of my peers, on and off campus, and I wanted to attend this event in order to better help spread awareness.

Finally, after about two hours of waiting Biden took the stage. I held my breath as some of the vice president’s advisors set up his podium and then there was a roar of cheers from the audience. The vice president, along with actor Josh Hutcherson took the stage with a bright smile and welcoming gestures. They were introduced by Ohio State President Michael B. Drake-who first talked of their many accomplishments. Hutcherson stepped up to the podium to speak first and expressed is excitement to be at Ohio State and share his work with the non-profit he is involved with, Straight but not Narrow (SBNN). This organization focuses on straight youth & young adults, and strives to positively influence the perception of, and behavior toward, their LGBT peers. Thanks to the programs funded by SBNN violent reports towards LGBTQ individuals have decreased since it was established in 2011.  Until this point in time I had no clue that he was involved with an organization such as SBNN. I appreciated the fact that he was here to bring consciousness to another critical issue that involves not only my peers but family members as well.

It was after he congratulated students on taking the It’s On Us pledge that Josh introduced Joe Biden podium. Vice President humbly took the stage and proceeded to talk of how good it felt to be amongst buckeyes again. He began with humor, speaking of his Ohio born neighbors and how they always broadcast to the world of the success of the university whether it is in academics or sports. There was much laughter from the audience I included, but the mood shifted once the vice president began speaking of testimonies from women who shared in their graphic stories in over 800 hours of hearings before the Violence Against Women Act that was passed in 1994. These women as the vice president said were raped, and then raped again by society. As Biden told some of the stories of young women being raped and scared, it painted a picture in everyone’s mind as they sat deciding whether or not to pass the piece of legislation.

It forced people to hear, look, and recognize this as an urgent problem. The testimonials sent shivers down my spine. One of the stories that particularly touched me was of a young woman whom went out with her friends one night. She decided to stay at a bar by herself while she finished her last drink, and has she got up to leave she was raped outside in an alleyway. The more disturbing part to this testimony was that her mother, friends, and even the judge who was deciding in her case asked “Why were you wearing skimpy clothes in a bar by yourself?” I agree with Biden in saying that no woman who was attacked should even have to endure rhetorical questions from the people who she should be able to confide in the most.

The effects that took place on America 20 years ago did the same thing to the group of students who attended the event that night. All eyes were on Biden as he continued to share with us the success the Violence Against Women Act has brought since it was established. In the 20 years that this law has taken place violent acts towards women have dropped 60%, and 3.4 million men and women have used the hotline that was setup for a way for victims to talk to someone about their attacks.

While this piece of legislation has gone a long way we can do more to stop these violent acts. As the vice president was speaking on the success he also mentioned a statistic that has not changed in the past 20 years. In girls raging from ages 18-24 nothing has changed since the law was passed. After this came to the attention of President Obama and Vice President Biden they decided it was time to get more people involved. That is why It’s On Us was created to get college students both male and female to spread awareness and prevention tactics of sexual assault on college campuses.

At the end of this inspiring evening a few points the vice president made were perfectly clear to me. One is that students every need to promise to do more and recognize this severe behavior acts as a crime, and second being that unless culture stops putting blame on the victims then we as a society will go nowhere in preventing this issue. At the conclusion of his speech Joe Biden expressed to us what he thought a victory against this issue looked like. A warm smile came appeared on his face and he shut his eyes as if he was imagining what this world would be like. He then said he thought a victory would be to have a culture where victims do not ask themselves what more they could have done to prevent such and act, and when no man should ever feel he need to lay his hands on a woman because that is the most unforgivable act a man could do.

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Written by Aariann Felix, Women’s Fund Intern 

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