United States Vice President Joe Biden hosted a reception in honor of activists of the "It’s On Us" campaign, which included University of Connecticut student Suzanne Cayer. She was invited to the White House to receive additional training in efforts to reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.
President Obama and Vice President Biden began “It’s On Us” in September 2014, according to the It’s On Us reception press release. The campaign recognizes that “the solution to sexual assault begins with all of us.” It seeks to reframe the conversation surrounding sexual assault in a way that inspires everyone to see it as his or her responsibility to do something to prevent it.
“As a survivor of sexual violence and domestic violence, "It’s On Us" has been an incredible opportunity to empower myself and others,” Cayer said. “Having the chance to meet Vice President Biden and see in person how passionate he is about ending gender-based violence was unbelievably inspiring.”
Administration officials, members of Congress, leaders of national advocacy organizations and students serving on the It’s On Us Student Advisory Committee were present at the reception, according to the press release.
Cayer said that she had meetings all morning at the White House where attendants spoke about strategy and marketing for the campaign as well as raising awareness for sexual assault prevention and bystander intervention.
“The reception at Joe Biden's residence at the Naval Observatory was filled with so many inspiring politicians, such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand from New York and Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President, Chief of Staff for the First Lady of the United States and Executive Director of the White House Counsel of Women and Girls,” Cayer said.
Vice President Joe Biden talked about the importance of bystander intervention during his speech, according to Cayer. “I got to talk to Joe Biden personally, and I told him that I was a survivor of sexual and domestic violence, and that sexual violence prevention work helped save my life,” she said.
Cayer said that activism has helped give her a purpose after the devastation of being raped and assaulted. “It was absolutely incredible to represent not only the It's On Us campaign, but UConn on a national level,” she said. “I learned so much from other student leaders around the nation as well as politicians on the importance of sexual violence prevention work.”
She said she believes that being proactive in ending sexual violence instead of being reactive is extremely important. “This means teaching comprehensive sexual education in middle schools and high schools, including consent, healthy relationships, sexual and domestic violence and protection and contraception. Teaching about different sexualities and genders are essential to understanding gender-based violence because we have a very narrow view of what gender-based violence is: a man as a perpetrator and a female as a victim,” Cayer said.
In terms of on-campus work, Cayer said she would love to see the administration and the Board of Trustees be more interested in issues that will affect a majority of students on the UConn campuses. “Specifically, having freshman seminars focus on social justice issues would help students be well equipped to examine and respond to gender-based violence and bias-incidences both on campus and in the world after graduation. I'm very optimistic about working with UConn administrators, the Board of Trustees, as well as Connecticut lawmakers in making our state an It's On Us community,” she said.
Since the campaign started, more than 360,000 individuals have joined the cause and taken the
"It’s On Us" Pledge, according to the press release. Student activists have organized more than 1,400 events at more than 530 college campuses across the country.
Megan Krementowski is associate life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.