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Biden asks Syracuse University students to help end sexual assaults on college campuses

Tom Magnarelli
Vice President Joe Biden at Syracuse University.

Vice President Joe Biden spoke at Syracuse University yesterday calling for an end to sexual assault on college campuses. A nationwide campaign is asking students to change the culture on campuses and to speak up when they see sexual assault.

Samantha Skaller is a junior at Syracuse University and the week before classes started her sophomore year, she was raped.

“It took me over one year to be able to say, ‘it’s not my fault,’ out loud,” Skaller said.

Skaller is part of the national “It’s on Us” campaign launched by the White House last year. The initiative calls on students to pledge to intervene if they see sexual assault and to create an environment that does not tolerate it. Speaking to an auditorium filled with students, Biden says the quickest ways to change American culture is by changing it on college campuses.

“The standard by which we should measure ourselves is anytime consent is not given or cannot be given, we understand, we make no mistake, we make no excuses, it is rape or it is whatever the form of sexual assault is taken," Biden said. "It is a crime.”

About 250,000 students nationwide have taken the “It’s on Us” pledge and 300 college campuses have held events and created their own PSAs. Biden says starting the initiative was necessary because progress against sexual assaults on college campuses has been lacking. The vice president said more men and school administrations need to get involved. Students are asked to spread the word on social media using #ItsOnUs.

“It’s up to all of you to have the gumption to stand up and speak out," Biden said. "There’s no excuse. Don’t look left and right, look in the mirror. We can fundamentally change this.”

About 1 in 4 women on college campuses have experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact according to a recent study from the Association of American Universities.

Earlier this year Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law that makes it easier for students in New York State to report sexual assaults and requires schools to keep better records of alleged abuses.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.