Politics

Obama: Campus Sex Assault an Affront to Humanity

President Barack Obama, left, steps off stage to hug Lilly Jay, right, a sexual assault survivor, during a 'It's On Us' campaign event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014.  Obama spoke Friday as the White House unveiled a new campaign to change the way people think about campus sexual assault.  (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama, left, steps off stage to hug Lilly Jay, right, a sexual assault survivor, during a ‘It’s On Us’ campaign event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. Obama spoke Friday as the White House unveiled a new campaign to change the way people think about campus sexual assault. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Amid a new focus on violence against women, President Barack Obama kicked off a star-powered campaign Friday against campus sexual assault particularly targeted at encouraging men to take a stand.

Jon Hamm of “Mad Men,” Kerry Washington of “Scandal” and NBA all-star Kevin Love are some of the familiar faces appearing in a public service announcement along with the president. The “It’s On Us” campaign encourages everyone to consider stopping sexual assault their personal responsibility and to intervene when they suspect a woman can’t or won’t consent.

With an estimated 1 in 5 college women experiencing an attack, Obama decried “the quiet tolerance of sexual assault” and called it “an affront to our basic humanity.” Research has shown most victims know their attackers, alcohol or drugs are often involved and only 12 percent of college women report the attack to police.

The Obama administration has been raising awareness of the problem this year, ahead of a midterm election in which Democrats are counting on a strong turnout by female voters. In January, Obama launched the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault that recommended action campuses could take to protect victims. The U.S. Department of Education for the first time publicly exposed the list of colleges under federal investigation for their handling of sexual assault complaints.

The latest effort has a particular focus on reaching men on campus.

“You don’t want to be the guy who stops a friend from taking a woman home,” Obama said, while arguing it is men’s responsibility to do so.

Vice President Joe Biden was even more blunt in his message to men. “Step up!” he said. “Be responsible. Intervene. You have an obligation to make a pariah of those on campus who abuse another person.”

Violence against women has taken on a new prominence recently amid controversy over the NFL’s handling of domestic assault involving its players. Obama said society, including sports leagues, too often sends the message that women aren’t valued. And with recent sexual assault scandals of their own, the nation’s military academies are among the collegiate partners in the campaign, Obama said.

The campaign is supported by partners who plan to help spread the message, including the NCAA, several collegiate athletic conferences and media companies with reach among students.

Visitors to the Itsonus.org website are asked to turn their social media profile pictures into the campaign logo badge. They are asked to use their name, email address and zip code to pledge “not to be a bystander to the problem but to be a part of the solution.” The information is collected by Generation Progress, the youth arm of the liberal Center for American Progress advocacy organization with close ties to the White House.

Other celebrities appearing in the PSA are actresses Connie Britton, Rose Byrne and Mayim Bialik, comedian Joel McHale and musicians Randy Jackson and Questlove.

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Follow Nedra Pickler on Twitter at https://twitter.com/nedrapickler

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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