Back in April, a White House task force released a twenty-page report that proposed steps to address the disturbingly high rates of sexual assault on college campuses (1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted in college, often by someone she knows, often in her first two years at school). The report outlines ways the federal government can better understand and prevent this epidemic. These include demanding access to accurate data from universities, engaging men in prevention, and helping schools respond effectively and responsibly to cases of assault. One tangible result of these findings is the launch of notalone.gov, which aims to centralize information about services, resources, advocates and crisis centers across the country.
On Friday, the White House launched a campaign against sexual assault on college campuses called “It’s On Us”. The video released with the launch of the campaign features celebrities like Jon Hamm, along with President Obama, urging men across the country to get involved with sexual assault prevention. There is a pledge available on the website, a “…promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be a part of the solution.” The site then guides readers through names of people and companies that have already taken the pledge. It also includes tips for preventing and recognizing sexual assault, including:
Tip 11: “Understand that if someone does not or cannot consent to sex, it is rape.”
Tip 12: “Never blame the victim.”
It is both bizarre to realize that these tips might not have previously been considered obvious to everyone, as well as exciting to see certain realities about assault finally receiving recognition. Overall, it’s clear that the White House and administration are fully embracing social media, hashtags and other modern modes of connecting with millennials, among others.
Look, it is absolutely necessary for people to take responsibility when they witness sexual assault or see a means of preventing a sexual assault; it is absolutely necessary to educate men about consent and victim blaming and … yet, in light of the expanse of rape culture, and the normalcy of female objectification, these social media button-clicking campaigns are annoyingly gestural. Hashtags and profile pictures cannot really provide an understanding of the ways that violence against women is embedded in our culture. The question of how to dismantle these systems of violence has still not been answered; however, I guess the hashtags might as well try, as long as no one is yet claiming a #totalvictory.
All images and video via itsonus.org