By Nathaniel Patton
This Tuesday, April 5, 2016, the University of Pittsburgh held an event for the It’s On Us campaign. This event brought together many distinguished individuals. There were leaders from our campus’s student organizations and leaders from our sports teams. Also from the university were Student Government Board President Nasreen Harun, Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner, and Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. Members from outside of Pitt that attended were Pittsburgh’s mayor Bill Peduto, Governor of Pennsylvania Tom Wolf, actor Matt McGorry, and Vice President of the United States Joe Biden.
All of these individuals came to campus to rally around one cause. The main purpose of this event was to raise awareness and incite students to stand up against sexual assault. As the name of the campaign suggests, it is on us to stand up and begin a cultural shift that makes the rape culture that is prevalent in America obsolete. A good summary of what the campaign is about is what Bill Peduto said at the end of his speech, quoting Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” This initiative is a challenge for us, as college students, to make our generation that ends victim shaming, violence against women, and the rape culture of America.
The event kicked off with speeches from leaders of campus organizations. The brief intermissions between these speeches were filled with PSA’s, videos, singing performances and performances by the band, cheerleaders and dance team. Following those presentations, the main event began. Bill Peduto was the first to speak, talking about the city’s commitment to assisting campus police in their efforts to be a trustworthy and compassionate place where one can report sexual assault without fear of judgment. He then introduced the afternoon’s main speakers.
Everyone in attendance was treated to an array of talented orators that began with Tom Wolf. He spoke on the issue of sexual assault from a political standpoint. He highlighted the fact that in 2014, Pennsylvania became the first state to adopt a statewide It’s On Us initiative.
After Governor Wolf, Orange is the New Black and How to Get Away With Murder star, Matt McGorry, spoke. His speech detailed his transition from someone who was only peripherally aware of sexism and sexual assault in our society. He talked about how it took a change of character and speaking with many influential women in his life about what they deal with every day. He spoke of the way to change society is to look introspectively, and not to look to the people around us to be the difference.
Finally, Matt introduced the Vice President of the United States. Joe Biden was one of the most eloquent speakers I have had the pleasure of hearing. He spoke very casually, but at the same time, you could tell that he was very passionate about this topic. He spoke about his tireless work on the advancement of sexual equality. At points he screamed about atrocities he has witnessed, especially victim shaming. He told some very haunting stories of people he has spoken with since his work on this subject began in 1989. Overall, the speech (and the event as a whole) had an uplifting message. That we can accomplish these goals if we work together, leave no man or woman behind, and stand up for one another. If there is one thing that should be taken away from this entire event is this: each of us has the duty to ourselves and our peers to stand up for one another and not let sexual assault continue to go unnoticed and unreported.