Vice President Joe Biden asked Ohio State students to promise to play an active role in the effort to prevent sexual assault during a rally at Ohio State on Thursday.
Biden’s address to support women’s safety came at the one-year anniversary of the “It’s On Us” initiative.
The campaign is dedicated to ending sexual violence and brought hundreds of people to witness Biden’s speech about problems faced on college campuses.
Biden, who has advocated for women’s safety in the past and drafted the Violence Against Women Act, enacted in 1994, spoke about the need for action.
“Promise to intervene instead of being a bystander,” Biden said. “Promise to recognize that any time there is no consent or consent cannot be given, it is sexual assault, and it is a crime. Promise to create an environment where sexual assault is unacceptable.”
Biden said people need to think about the treatment of survivors of sexual assault.
“We are asking all the wrong questions,” Biden said. “This is important for America to hear; it is never appropriate to ask, ‘What were you wearing? Why were you there? What did you say?’ They’re all the wrong questions.”
“The Hunger Games” star Josh Hutcherson, who is involved in the straight ally group Straight But Not Narrow, came to the stage to talk about how students can help end sexual violence, specifically within the LGBT community.
“Within the LGBT community, almost 50 percent of students at some point … say they have experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment,” Hutcherson said. “I hope that these organizations bring everyone together and say that no matter who you are, no matter what you are going through in your life, we can lift each other up.”
Kristen Cuevas, a fifth-year in biology, and Blaire Teaford, a second-year in psychology, are two OSU survivors of sexual assault who shared their stories on stage Thursday, encouraging anyone who is a victim that needs help to seek it.
“Remember you are not alone. You are survivors. You are warriors,” Teaford said.
Biden also recognized the survivors at OSU during his speech.
“I came here … for Kristen and Blair, and all the women who have been victimized by sexual assault. Thank you for having the courage to speak up,” he said.
University president Michael Drake announced the new sexual assault prevention initiative on campus, Buckeyes ACT.
“We will continue to work to ensure a culture of deep and abiding respect across our campus, a place where sexual misconduct and relationship violence are simply unacceptable,” Drake said. ‘To that end today we announced Buckeyes ACT, which combines new programs with existing initiatives.”
The program includes mandatory sexual misconduct and relationship violence training for students, the creation of an investigative team on campus to look into sexual assault cases on campus, a 24-hour crisis response program to supplement existing counseling services, and the instatement of new student training and awareness initiatives.
Abby Grossman, a fourth-year in math education and president of Undergraduate Student Government, said it was incredible seeing somebody so highly regarded speak passionately about the cause.
“It was a great honor to be chosen to host this event and welcome vice president Biden to campus to celebrate this occasion,” she said. “After taking the pledge (to end sexual violence) is when the hard work begins. Working to become active participants in the conversation and prevention is the next step for everyone.”
USG plans to continuously work closely with programs such as It’s On Us and Buckeyes Got Your Back, an OSU sexual assault prevention program, Grossman said.
Some students said they think the event successfully sent a positive message to the OSU community.
“It was really amazing to see the university as a community come together for something like this for such a poignant issue,” said Levi Griffith, a second-year in public affairs who attended the event.
Michael Eggiman, a first-year in English, said the next step in ending sexual violence on campus is pledging to combat sexual misconduct and assault.
“Everyone was aware of this issue, this ongoing problem that’s prominent at many universities, and it brought a lot of awareness,” he said. “But we can’t be accomplices to it, we can’t turn a blind eye when we see it. We need to rise up and do something and protect our fellow students.”