Vice President Joe Biden puts on an It's On Us T-shirt presented by the Illinois Student Senate.
URBANA – Accountability was the main theme when Vice President Joe Biden spoke to Illinois students on Thursday – there’s no excuse for sexual assault to continue, he said, and it’s on everyone to make a difference.
Biden visited campus as part of the student-driven It’s On Us campaign, which puts a heavy emphasis on bystander intervention and accountability when it comes to stopping sexual assault.
In advance of Biden’s comments, Student Body President Mitch Dickey said students collaborated with the Women’s Resource Center, the Office of the Dean of Students and others to engage campus “in a way that no other campus has.”
“If that can empower just one student to step up and stop a sexual assault from happening, then everything will be worth it,” Dickey said.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis thanked students and suggested “let’s look out for each other.”
That matters, Biden said, because when it comes to stopping sexual assault, we first have to create an environment where sexual assault is unacceptable.
“That’s all within your power,” Biden said. “It comes down to a simple proposition: We really have to change the culture, the culture on campus as to what’s acceptable.”
Biden put the onus on students for stopping sexual assault when he said, “Silence is a form of approval. Inaction is a form of cowardice.”
He also said talking about sexual assault is an important way to change the culture.
Men have an important role in that, Biden said. Through his social media channels, Biden’s office asked college students about the best way to make the biggest impact on their campuses.
The most popular answer: Get men involved.
“Make them look at it. Make them understand,” he said. “That’s when things change.”
Biden acknowledged that it may be difficult to step in when somebody sees a problem occurring or when they are in a situation where someone may be in danger. It’s important to do anything, he said. Call police, call someone, create a distraction – just yell, if you need to.
“Do whatever it takes to distract and stop,” Biden said. “But you’ve got to step up, you’ve got to step in, you’ve got to speak out.”
U. of I. students have been an incredible leader in the It’s On Us campaign, regularly holding pledge drives to raise awareness about sexual assault.
That campaign will continue, and anyone who has not taken the pledge is encouraged to sign up at www.ItsOnUs.org.
“It’s within our power to end sexual assault on every campus in every community,” Biden said. “There’s really no excuse.”