by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Sexual assault on college campuses in the United States is a problem. So much so that on September 19, 2014, President Obama and Vice President Biden unveiled 'It's On Us,' in partnership with Generation Progress at the Center for American Progress.
According to the White House, 'It's On Us' recognizes that the solution to sexual assault begins with all of us. It seeks to reframe the conversation surrounding sexual assault in a way that inspires everyone to see it as his or her responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it.
In the last year alone, students have launched 'It's On Us 'campaigns at over 300 schools and have hosted more than 650 'It's On Us' events. Since the launch of 'It's On Us' last September, almost 220,000 people have taken the pledge to end sexual assault on college campuses. 'It's On Us' PSAs have had over 10 million views online and the campaign has generated over 3 billion media impressions.
'It's On Us' now has over 90 partners including media, sports leagues and conferences, sexual assault prevention organizations, non-profit organizations, and corporations.
Earlier this week, the 'It's On Us' campaign released a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) that includes cameos from 'It's On Us' supporters and artists such as Zoe Saldana, John Cho, and Josh Hutcherson.
This PSA, which is titled 'The One Thing,' focuses on the importance of consent when engaging in sexual activity. The campaign is also announcing new 'It's On Us' partners including The Ad Council, Kering Foundation, Straight But Not Narrow, and Chegg. Starting today, the Ad Council will distribute the PSA to its network of more than 20,000 media outlets nationwide. The ads will air and run in time and space donated to the 'It's On Us' campaign by media entities around the country, as well as current 'It's On Us' partners, including several of the major college sports conferences. The 'It's On Us' campaign is also working with the PVBLIC Foundation to distribute the PSA.
'The One Thing' marks the third PSA released by 'It's On Us' and comes just a few weeks before the one-year anniversary of the launch of 'It's On Us,' created to increase education and awareness around preventing sexual violence on college and university campuses.
On September 2, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, delivered opening remarks at the National Sexual Assault Conference in Los Angeles, where she highlighted the PSA and progress made by the White House to combat sexual assault.
President Obama and Vice President Biden have made it a national priority to root out sexual violence and domestic violence wherever they exist. Soon after taking office, the President created the White House Council on Women and Girls and named the first-ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. Over the last six years, the President and Vice President have led the way in tackling the problem everywhere, from college and university campuses to the military to tribal lands and beyond.
The one thing the campaign leaves out, however, is the LGBTQ community, in terms of specifically looking at the unique problems that we face as a community. Mainstream conversations about rape often fail to acknowledge sexual assaults that happen within the LGBTQ community.
There are common myths that exist that help this line of thinking survive, but do nothing to help victims of sexual assault who are LGBTQ. Some of these myths include:
A woman can't rape another woman.
While the majority of perpetrators of sexual assault are male, the idea that woman-on-woman sexual assault does not occur is only a product of gender role stereotypes that encourage the idea that women are never violent.
Gay men are sexually promiscuous and are always ready for sex.
Men who identify as Gay, like all people, have the right to say no to sex at any time and have that respected. Because of the stereotypes that many people have about Gay men's sexual availability, however, it may be more difficult for a Gay man to convince others that he was assaulted.
Bisexuals are kinky anyway, and sexual assault for them is just rough sex that got out of hand.
Bisexuality reflects a sexual orientation, not sexual practices. Bisexuals, like heterosexuals, practice a wide range of sexual behaviors, and, for Bisexuals, like for heterosexuals, rough sex and a sexual assault are two very different things. Because of stereotypes about Bisexuals, they, too, may have difficulty being believed about a sexual assault.
When a woman claims domestic abuse by another women, it is just a catfight. Similarly, when a man claims domestic abuse by another man, it is just two men fighting.
The idea that women entice men to rape them or that they really want it is also not true. No person deserves to be raped, and no person asks to be raped or wants it. This myth again shows the extent to which sexual assault is sexualized in our society. Women may experience a sexual assault, no matter what they are wearing, and what the victim was wearing in no way makes her/him responsible for the assault.
As with all cases of sexual assault, these myths can only be dispelled when they are replaced by truth. This requires that members of the LGBTQ community and heterosexual allies speak out and acknowledge sexual assault and domestic violence within the LGBT community, in order to both prevent future assaults and to provide competent and compassionate care to survivors.
Lauren Paulk, National Center for Lesbian Rights Reproductive Justice Fellow, reports that 'through a combination of stigma and myths, sexual assault in the LGBT community is often rendered invisible or dismissed outright, despite CDC statistics that show the sexual assault rate for LGBT individuals is comparable or higher than the sexual assault rate for heterosexual individuals.'
Approximately 1 in 8 Lesbian women and nearly half of Bisexual women experience rape in their lifetime, and statistics likely increase when a broader definition of sexual assault is used.
Nearly half of Bisexual men and 4 in 10 Gay men have experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetime, and though statistics regarding rape vary, it is likely that the rate is higher or comparable to heterosexual men.
As with most hate-based violence, Transgender individuals are the most likely to be affected in the LGBT community. A staggering 64% of Transgender people have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime.
Locally, if you have experienced sexual assault in the LGBTQ community you can reach out to the Northwest Network, a network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian and Gay survivors of abuse that works to end violence and abuse by building loving and equitable relationships in the community and across the country. For more information visit them online at http://nwnetwork.org.
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