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NCAA, White House partner to combat sexual violence on campus

It’s On Us campaign encourages peers and bystanders to create a campus environment that makes sexual assault unacceptable

As part of a new campaign announced Friday, the NCAA is partnering with the White House to combat sexual violence on college campuses nationwide.

The campaign, called It’s On Us, focuses on encouraging bystander intervention and building a campus culture that makes sexual assault unacceptable. The program is designed to bring the campus community – not just potential victims and attackers, but their classmates, peers, professors and friends – into the conversation, giving them a shared sense of responsibility for improving attitudes toward sexual violence.

Other campaign partners include the Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12, U.S. Olympic Committee and student body leaders from nearly 200 colleges and universities across the United States. The program’s goal is to fundamentally change the way people think about sexual assault and broaden bystanders’ sense of responsibility to do something to stop it.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden announced the kickoff Friday morning at the White House. As part of this initiative, the Justice Department Office on Violence Against Women will distribute more than $6 million in grants to fund universities’ efforts to develop campus sexual assault prevention and response programs. Currently, an estimated 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.

Individual supporters can take a pledge to be part of the solution. The It’s On Us website includes instructions for filming video testimonials and posting them to social media with the hashtag #itsonus. On campuses, supporters are encouraged to bring like-minded organizations together to host events and spread the word that bystanders don’t have to be onlookers: They can take ownership of the problem.

The NCAA is an Advisory Board sponsor for the campaign. In this role, in addition to promoting It’s On Us and encouraging its 1,100 member schools to join the effort, the Association will include a half-day educational session for its member schools at its annual Convention in January in Washington, D.C. Additionally, it’s On Us public service announcements will be broadcast to college sports fans attending NCAA championship events.

For the NCAA, taking part in It’s On Us is the latest step in seeking solutions to this issue. In August the NCAA Executive Committee – the Association’s highest governance body, composed of university presidents from Division I, Division II and Division II – passed a resolution encouraging athletics departments to actively partner with the rest of campus to combat sexual violence.

This month the NCAA released a sexual assault prevention handbook, “Addressing Sexual Assault and Interpersonal Violence: Athletics’ Role in Support of Healthy and Safe Campuses.”  The handbook is designed to help athletics departments understand how they can be valuable in changing the culture regarding this important campus issue.