In its national campaign against sexual assaults on college campuses, the White House is taking a slightly different approach: Instead of just encouraging women to come forward, Obama is targeting bystanders, mainly men.
The latest "It's on Us" public service announcement video depicts a college party where an intoxicated woman is approached by a man. She's trying to leave the party, but the man won't let her. Meanwhile, another man is sitting on a coach, watching the whole thing. After a few moments, he gets up to intervene.
“Bystander involvement can be very important, and oftentimes men underestimate other men’s attitudes toward violence," said Valerie Jarrett, top Obama adviser who gave an exclusive interview to Buzzfeed.
She continued: "They don’t understand that other men are opposed to violence too. So if they get the sense that it’s OK [to intervene] because everyone else around the room feels the same way you do, so the first person who gets up will inspire the next person to get up, and the next person and a next person."
Anti-campus sexual assault campaigns that reach out to men are becoming more common. For example, the organization Consent is So Frat (CISF) encourages college guys and fraternities to combat sexual violence as well. "It brings the fraternities on a campus together in recognizing their need to promote consent in their organizations and greater communities," CISF founder Matthew Leibowitz told USA Today, "but it also introduces to the campus the idea of fraternities being allies in ending sexual assault.”
It was reported in October the federal government is investigating 85 colleges on how they handle sexual assault cases on campus. That number jumped from 64 in June and 55 in May.
The investigations have sparked change at some campuses. The University of California, for example, formed a task force to oversee efforts to prevent sexual violence at UC campuses. And, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed an "affirmed consent" bill in September that requires colleges and universities in the state to adopt new anti-sexual-assault policies. Under the new policy, both partners must obtain unambiguous consent before engaging in sexual activity with each other. In judicial hearings, schools must investigate whether both partners said "yes."