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Celebrating the 2016 Champions of Change

April 18, 2016

In September 2014 President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden launched It’s On Us, an education based campaign focusing on sexual assault prevention and awareness on college campuses, by advocating a cultural shift around the way sexual assault is addressed.

Yesterday, April 14, 2016 the White House honored ten Champions of Change, ten extraordinary student leaders from across the nation who are working to ensure the It’s On Us campaign inspires change on their very own college campuses. Tina Tchen, Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls recounted the start of the program and embracing the responsibility to stand up for the safety of those around us. Champion after champion took the stage, in panels moderated by Rebecca Kaplan, Deputy Director of It’s On Us, and actor and activist Matt McGorry, to share their innovative ideas and creative engagement techniques they have been using at their school. Pablo Das at Boston University started “16,000 Strong,” BU’s first student run sexual assault prevention campaign aimed at engaging each student at the school. Lisa Napper at Howard University hosted the college’s first Take Back The Night event, and co-produced a documentary about the challenges of African American women surviving sexual assault on campus. Meghan Yap from the University of California San Diego advocates for trauma-informed care for all survivors on campus, and effective evidence collection for successful cases.

The After School Specials, a talented a capella group from Claremont College in California performed a moving cover of Lady Gaga and Diane Warren’s “Til it Happens to You,” a song about sexual assault featured in the movie the Hunting Ground before welcoming the Vice President and writer of the first Violence Against Women Act, Joe Biden. The Vice President noted “we have to do something profound to change the way we think about these things,” and shared that his passion for ending violence stems from being taught by his father that the greatest sin is the abuse of power. “I believe that we have an opportunity, if we commit ourselves, to do nothing short of changing the culture as it relates to how women are treated, not only overall but on college campuses and in high schools,” said the Vice President.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) applauds these young leaders, and supports efforts to leverage entire communities to engage in ending sexual assault and changing the treatment of sexual assault survivors everywhere. Change can be teaching students at a party about consent or getting thousands to take a pledge to intervene when they see unsafe behavior. We all can speak up and speak out about sexual assault, which includes talking about rape culture and unpacking the myriad layers of social attitudes that impact whether sexual violence is tolerated. We can all help break down the cultural beliefs that imply that perpetrators may not be to blame for their actions and that survivors could have somehow prevented the violence that was done to them. It’s On Us to stand with and support survivors and end rape culture.