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Contact CU Independent News Staff Writer Ashley Hopko at Ashley.Hopko@colorado.edu.
Throughout the past two years, Vice President Joe Biden has made great strides in his fight to end sexual violence, primarily through the “It’s on Us” campaign that has swept through the nation. He has reached countless numbers of students, and the general public with his message.
For the students at the University of Colorado-Boulder, Biden’s presence on campus last Friday made the issue more of a reality than just a concept. It was obvious that Biden’s commitment to the issue goes way beyond the surface level.
In his 50 minutes, Biden spoke about why the issue is so important to him. He included anecdotes from survivors he has gotten to know over his years of working as a senator and as vice president. While he spoke, everyone was so intensely silent that birds could be heard chirping outside the rec center venue. Every single person in that room seemed captivated by the the sheer force of Biden’s speech.
Biden introduced Max Demby, a student at CU-Boulder, who actually stood up for a potential victim and ended up stopping the sexual assault from happening. By placing him in front of the entire nation, Biden presented Demby as an example.
“Max is a hero,” Biden said.
During the event, Biden stressed the message that not only men, but women can and should be intervening too. Sexual assault is not a single-gendered problem. Stereotypes make people play into the idea that they are helpless in the face of sexual assault, but this isn’t the case.
“By the way, none of you women get off the hook either. Not a chance. Studies show that your classmates who are abused…two-thirds of them go to you,” Biden said. “They report it to their roommate. They tell their friends…They tell their sorority sisters.”
He was implying that if someone tells a friend about an abuse, it’s the friend’s job to help them with the next steps. If someone sees something about to happen, they always have an option to do something. Biden even went as far as to say a bystander who witnesses a potentially dangerous situation and decides not to act is essentially an accessory to the crime.
Last fall, professor Pete Simonson went to CU-Boulder’s Interfraternity Council (IFC) and proposed to get fraternity brothers to take the pledge to help end sexual violence. Despite being directly handed this opportunity, they turned down the opportunity to act. Still, it is important to note that a considerable amount of Greek-affiliated men attended Biden’s talk, wearing letters that represented a large variety of houses. It might be argued that they were there just to see the vice president speak, yet they still heard the message. Many in the audience took the “It’s On Us” pledge during the speech, as Biden instructed the audience to repeat after him and recite the pledge out loud.
Biden is an incredibly powerful speaker, and it would seem hard not to internalize some of the important facts about the issue. While Biden’s address alone won’t fix the problem of sexual assault on campuses, it is a start.
Of all messages in Biden’s campaign, the most crucial seemed to be remembering one’s individual importance in stopping sexual assault. Everyone has the power to change this problem — everyone can have an impact. No one should feel alone or helpless in the fight against sexual violence.