Wednesday, the White House Counsel on Women and Girls and the Office of the Vice President released a report and launched a new initiative to end rape on college campuses.
Due in no small part to the hard work of campus activists, like our own Alexandra and Wagatwe, the president says his administration is focused on ending sexual violence and will hold those schools who receive federal funding accountable for shamefully inadequate reporting procedures on campus. As I’ve said before on this site, hearing the president address this issue that has effected so many of us personally is an emotional experience. When he says, “To anyone out there who has ever been assaulted, you are not alone. You will never be alone. We have your back. I’ve got your back,” I think he really means it. This is an incredible opportunity for all of us to ramp up our efforts to continue to change the conversation around rape prevention. (Transcript after the jump.)
Vice President Biden words were particularly moving because he framed the conversation around what we all can do, including men, to combat gender-based violence, and directly addressed victim blaming. Essentially, the Vice President is echoing the message of “teaching men not to rape” that feminists have been saying since forever.
He knows what I know: Freedom from sexual assault is a basic human right. No man has a right to raise a hand to a woman for any reason — any reason — other than self-defense. He knows that a nation’s decency is in large part measured by how it responds to violence against women. He knows that our daughters, our sisters, our wives, our mothers, our grandmothers have every single right to expect to be free from violence and sexual abuse. No matter what she’s wearing, no matter whether she’s in a bar, in a dormitory, in the back seat of a car, on a street, drunk or sober, no man has a right to go beyond the word “No”. And if she can’t consent, it also means no. That too makes it a crime.
The President also knows that we have to stop blaming victims for these crimes. No one ever asks the person who got robbed at gunpoint in the street — why were you there, what were you doing, what were you wearing? What did you say? Did you offend someone? We encourage people to come forward. We don’t have to explain why someone took our money.
My father used to say that the greatest abuse of all was the abuse of power, and the cardinal sin among the abuse of power avenues that can be taken is for a man to raise his hand to a woman. That’s the cardinal sin. There’s no justification in addition for us not intervening. Men have to step up to the bar here. Men have to take more responsibility. Men have to intervene. The measure of manhood is willingness to speak up and speak out, and begin to change the culture.
Read the full transcript here.
Zerlina Maxwell really wants to be a superhero, but will settle for blogging.