This week, the Obama administration launched the “It’s On Us” public awareness campaign that urges Americans to prevent sexual assault on college campuses. The Obama administration doesn’t recommend that we all dress modestly and paint our fingernails with a polish that will change color if our drink has been tampered with. Instead, the campaign starts a dialogue about how preventing sexual assault is on all of us.
What the campaign means by preventing sexual assault is to intervene when you see a problem. It includes tips like trust your gut in a bad situation and don’t blame the victim. Basically, the initiative has common-sense ideas that anyone regardless of gender can infiltrate into our lives to help others from getting hurt.
Ladies, when you’re out for the night to have some fun I know it doesn’t feel like it should be your responsibility to take care of someone else. But if you see a girl who is intoxicated, stumbling on the street – ask her if she needs help. Don’t scoff at her for drinking too much and say to yourself that you would never be that irresponsible as a means to distance yourself from her. The fact is, that girl could be you. You don’t know the circumstances of her night, but you do know that you should help.
Ladies looking after ladies isn’t the only thing the initiative focuses on. President Obama addressed men directly at a press conference. He said, “The truth is, it’s not just okay to intervene, it is your responsibility. It is your responsibility to speak your mind. It is your responsibility to tell your buddy when he’s messing up. It is your responsibility to set the right tone when you’re talking about women, even when women aren’t around — maybe especially when they’re not around (Plank, 2014).”
We all have moral responsibility to be decent people. Decent people correct the behavior of others when it can be harmful, and decent people try to help others when they’re in a dangerous situation.
The campaign also focuses on teaching young men to know better. “It’s not just on the parents of young women to caution them,” Obama said. “It is on the parents of young men to teach them respect for women. And it’s on grown men to set an example and be clear about what it means to be a man.”
Sometimes it can be difficult when we’ve been taught differently in our life. A friend of mine recently told me about how her roommate was sitting in an education class at the college when her professor asked the males in the class to go outside. While the males were outside, the professor educated the women in the room on how to not get assaulted. This failed attempt at a lesson perpetrates the idea that whatever happens is all on them. The professors’ words may have come from a good intention, but it didn’t send a good message.
Now is the time to eradicate that message, and have a discussion about changing behaviors and ideas. It’s time to have the courage to stand up to our professors, family members and even our friends when they are a part of the problem.