"What if everyone used the logic of victim-blaming?" That's the question the It's On Us campaign is asking to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act being signed into law. In a new video from the It's On Us campaign, shared exclusively with Bustle, two women flip the script on sexual assault.
In the video, titled "It's Illogical: The Art Gallery," two women discuss a sculpture, when one woman sets her hand on it. "'Scuse me," a male attendant says. "No touching the art please."
"Oh, my god, you are so funny," the woman replies, laughing with her friend. The attendant insists again that she not touch the artwork, and the other woman tells him, "We know you have to say no for appearances sake, but you really mean yes."
This is the logic used to excuse sexual assault, the next screen reads.
Created by 101-North for the It's On Us campaign, the video is meant to create a dialogue and continue to spread the word about the movement to end sexual assault, says Elvin Bruno Jr., the It's On Us campus program director. "By making light of a very serious topic, these videos are able to show that consent is both commonsense and critical," he tells Bustle, adding that he hopes the PSA provides "a new perspective that helps all viewers understand the importance of consent."
Introduced by Joe Biden in 1990, VAWA was passed by Congress four years later, in September 1994. The legislation increased the number of domestic abuse shelters, women's shelters, and rape crisis centers, and it changed the way law enforcement was trained when responding to domestic abuse situations. It established a national domestic violence hotline that "provides lifesaving tools and immediate support to empower victims and survivors to find safety and live free of abuse." And, crucially, the legislation also brought the devastating issue of domestic violence out into the open, where survivors no longer had to suffer in silence.
"This is a crucial moment for the It's On Us movement."
After 20 years of VAWA, Biden and President Obama introduced the "It's On Us" campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault, specifically on college campuses. Over the past three years, the campaign has seen 420,000 people take the "It's On Us pledge," which asks people to do four things:
- Recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault;
- Identify situations in which sexual assault may occur;
- Intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given; and
- Create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.
"Consent is not a complicated topic," Bruno says, "but often people are embarrassed and aren't taught how to address it."
Teaching consent is more important than ever, especially considering the changes Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is planning to make to Title IX guidelines. After consultation with men's rights groups, DeVos announced that the way President Obama used Title IX to outline how colleges and universities should handle sexual assault was a "failed system." In a speech declaring that she would change the way Title IX is applied, she focused on the lives of those accused of rape just as much as she mentioned the lives of rape survivors.
"This is a crucial moment for the It's On Us movement, as we face direct threats to Title IX protections, the progress we've made, and the rights of every student on campuses across the country," Bruno tells Bustle.
This video, released with two others, is part of the way It's On Us is trying to remind people how important consent is — and how ridiculous it is when people try to excuse sexual assault.
"We are always looking for new ways to shine a spotlight on these issues," Bruno says, "and these videos may be lighthearted, but the issues that they address are serious."