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White House launches 'It's On Us' campaign to combat campus sexual assault by Ashe Schow

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In its ongoing effort to prevent campus sexual assault, the Obama administration on Friday announced the “It’s On Us” campaign, designed to spread responsibility for preventing sexual assault.

“‘It’s On Us’ aims to fundamentally shift the way we think about sexual assault, by inspiring everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it,” a White House fact sheet on the campaign said.

But wait, I thought having women play an active role in preventing sexual assault was “victim-blaming”? Does “everyone” not include women?

The fact sheet also said that “sexual assault isn’t just an issue involving a crime committed by a perpetrator against a victim, but one in which the rest of us also have a role to play.”

The fact sheet links to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report on programs that help prevent sexual assault on colleges and universities. While the report doesn’t mention anything in the way of simple, commonsense risk reduction such as not walking alone at night, it does note the connection between alcohol consumption and sexual assault.

One of the major components of the campaign is to encourage bystanders to intervene when sexual assault may occur.

“Research shows that bystander intervention can be an effective way of stopping sexual assault before it happens, as bystanders play a key role in preventing, discouraging, and/or intervening when an act of violence has the potential to occur,” the fact sheet said.

If it's victim-blaming to suggest women be aware of their surroundings then isn't it "bystander-blaming" to suggest bystanders be aware?

The “It’s On Us” campaign is ultimately a good step toward prevention, but it predictably ignores due process rights for the accused or any acknowledgement that false accusations occur. Reducing sexual assaults on college campuses is necessary, and part of that equation involves allowing the accused to defend themselves so their lives are not wrongly destroyed.

One other interesting note about the fact sheet is that it doesn't include the statistic that one in five college women will be sexually assaulted during their four-year education, which is an often repeated myth. The debunked statistic does, however, appear in a White House blog from Jeff Zients, director of the National Economic Council.

Bottom line: The “It’s On Us” campaign provides some good information for schools but continues to ignore the rights of the accused.

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