Obama launches “It’s On Us” sexual assault prevention campaign

President Barack Obama announced Sept. 19 the launch of “It’s On Us,” the latest public awareness campaign to combat sexual assault on college campuses across the nation.

According to the White House, the campaign “seeks to engage college students and all members of campus communities in preventing sexual assault in the first place. The campaign is being launched in partnership with the Center for American Progress’ Generation Progress, along with student body leadership from nearly 200 colleges and universities across the country, collegiate sports organizations such as the NCAA, and private companies that have strong connections with students at colleges and universities.”

“Campus sexual assault is no longer something we as a nation can turn away from and say, ‘that’s not our problem,'” President Obama said at the East Room of the White House with Vice President Joe Biden. “We’ve got to have a fundamental shift in our culture.”

Overall, there were more than 3,900 reports of forcible sex offenses on college campuses nationwide in 2012, up 50 percent over three years, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal campus crime data.

According to Oswego State’s 2012 New York State University Police Report, the number of sex crimes has been sporadic over the last few years. There were four reported cases of rape in 2012, one reported case of sodomy in 2011, six reported cases of sexual abuse in 2008 and one reported criminal sex act in 2010. The number for 2013 will be released in October.

“I think the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign is extremely important,” said senior Lindsey Frazer. “Sexual assault is too often dismissed as the sort of issue that doesn’t happen to me, my friends, etc. It’s also too often affected by bystander intervention, and the idea that someone else will help. It’s dismissed, I think, too often as less serious than it actually is. And that’s a huge issue.”

Obama’s sexual assault prevention initiative comes in the wake of an off-campus incident on Sept. 9, where Onondaga Hall resident Nicholas Kerber was arrested and charged with charged with third-degree assault, second-degree reckless endangerment, forcible touching, second-degree unlawful imprisonment and second-degree criminal trespass. Kerber made unwanted advances on a female student and dropping her over a rail, ultimately causing her injuries that needed medical attention.

“It’s On Us” has been advertised by a motivational campaign video produced by the administration.

“President Obama’s new video that accompanies the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign is being shown on all campus digital signage screens where sound is available by Monday, and the video is linked to our Title IX website,” Oswego State President Deborah Stanley said in a campus-wide email announcement.

On Sept. 8, President Stanley sent an email announcement to all students stating “Our college has zero tolerance for sexual assault. We know that colleges, including SUNY Oswego, are not immune from this vicious crime, but we are committed to ensuring that our students are safe and that the campus is a welcoming and nurturing place where all can pursue an education.”

Many colleges and universities across the nation are creating their own videos regarding the campaign. President Stanley said Oswego State will be producing its own video on sexual assault prevention.

“Sexual assault is everyone’s problem. We must all work to build a culture of respect and shared responsibility,” Stanley said.

The Department of Justice is also preparing details for a new grant program that will award more than $6 million to 18 colleges to develop “comprehensive campus sexual assault prevention and response programs” that gains the attention of both women and men.

“Sexual assault isn’t an issue for women, it’s an issue that concerns everyone, and that everyone should take seriously,” Frazer said.