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It's On Us Testimony
Anne Johnson
Executive Director, Generation Progress,
Center for American Progress

  1. What was the impetus for the campaign?

    Sexual assault on campus is a systemic problem that spans across the country and affects the lives of millions of women and men. Studies have found that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted on campus. Of those, only 13% of rape survivors report the assault and 40% of victims fear reprisal. This is an issue that affects us all, and in order to change the statistics, we must first tackle the issue from a culture shift perspective.

    It's On Us is a rallying cry inviting everyone to step up and realize that the solution begins with us. It's a declaration that sexual assault isn't just an issue involving a victim and a perpetrator, but one in which the rest of us have a role to play.  We are reframing sexual assault in a way that inspires everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it. 

    The It's On Us campaign is being housed at Generation Progress with support from The White House, The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Mekanism, the PVBLIC Foundation and over 90 partner organizations. It's On Us is a multi-year effort focused on defining consent, increasing bystander intervention, and creating an environment that supports survivors.

  2. How did it develop?

    Given the urgency of the issue, the White House assembled the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault in January of 2014 to address the issue. A key finding of the task force report was the urgent need to change culture and expand the conversation to engage a wider group of college students. In order to create lasting change, the report indicated that it was critical for all students to take responsibility and commit to creating safer campuses.

    In direct response to this finding, White House Office of Public Engagement and The Vice President's office assembled a group of key influencers from the advertising, music, entertainment, professional sports and youth engagement sectors who work directly with young men ages 18-24. During the meeting, the group committed to creating a campaign that directly addressed culture change and shifting the public narrative around sexual assault.

    Mekanism, an advertising firm based in New York City, created the branding for the It's On Us campaign. The brand is extremely accessible, which has allowed individuals, schools, and communities to customize the campaign in a way that best fits their direct networks and communities. It's On Us was developed to have a positive and engaging messaging. 

  3. What are the elements of the campaign? What do you think are the most important/effective strategies?

    The campaign focuses on addressing bystander intervention, defining consent, and ensuring community support for survivors through online and offline engagement. The core goals of the campaign include:

    • Address and shift the cultural dialogue around sexual assault: Through the use of public service announcements (PSAs), large-scale digital engagement campaigns, and collaboration with national partners, the It's On Us campaign brings the issue of campus sexual assault to the forefront of the national conversation to educate individuals on the scope of the problem and how they can become a part of the solution 
    • Empower, educate and engage college students: The campaign works with colleges, local organizations and student groups, and individuals on the campus level to host conversations and events on sexual assault. Peer to peer education is a critical tool that must be utilized in order to create culture change directly on campuses and in communities. It's On Us identifies local leaders on this issue and provides national trainings to support individual activists.
    • Create an environment that supports survivors: For too long, sexual assault has been the burden of survivors alone, It's On Us is committed to ensuring that survivors are supported on campus, in their communities and at the national level. The campaign works directly with national and local survivor organizations to provide support and resources to amplify their work. Additionally, It's On Us works to connect survivor organizations to other groups to expand their scope and reach.
    • Achieve better policies at the campus level: It's On Us is working directly with colleges and universities to create more comprehensive sexual assault education and prevention curriculums and provide students with better access to survivor resources. Additionally, the campaign be works to ensure that colleges and universities are taking steps to adopt the recommendations made by the White House Task Force.

    In order to achieve these goals, It's On Us is comprised of the following core components:

    • Public service announcements and creative content: It's On Us has created three public service announcements with coordinated digital and print ads. The creative content is placed via donated media with assistance from the PVBLIC Foundation and Ad Council. It's On Us has made nearly two billion impressions worth of donated media valued at over $100,000,000. The creative content has been featured on TV, radio, on billboards, in TaxiTV, in movie theatre lobbies, in campus bookstores and bars, and in dozens of professional sports stadiums across the country. Additionally partners have created more than 300 PSA's using the It's On Us brand and creative.
    • Partnerships: It's On Us is proud to partner with almost 90 corporations, media entities, advocacy organizations, collegiate athletic conferences, and fraternities/sororities. Partners are essential to the success of the campaign and assist in reaching a broader and more diverse audience. We encourage partners to take one action by 1) distributing It's On Us created content through their unique distribution platforms. 2) Create and distribute their own content and 3) engage in weeks of action and at key moments of the campaign. Partners include Microsoft, iHeart Media, NBCUniversal, the United States Olympic Committee, RAINN, and Snapchat. Another driver of success has been the engagement of key influencers, celebrities, sports stars, artists and political leaders.
    • Campus organizing: A critical component of the campaign is creating local campus-based initiatives to engage directly with students. Events range from hosting pledge drives, to photo campaigns, to roundtable conversations on the issue of campus sexual assault and bystander intervention trainings. By building strong local campus programming, It's On Us sparks conversations at a peer to peer level.
    • Online engagement: The campaign has been overwhelmingly successful on social media platforms. Over 270,000 people have taken the It's On Us pledge at itsonus.org. By integrating the pledge with social avatars, the campaign has gained tremendous visibility. We asked individuals join the conversation online using #ItsOnUs and to date, the campaign has made 1.9 billion Twitter impressions. It's On Us has had success due to our innovative online engagement strategy which includes Twitter chats and working with partners that have large social media followings.

    In coordination, all four of these strategies have been critical to the success of the campaign and valuable in different ways. On a national level, our partnerships have helped It's On Us engage a wide array of individuals and shift the conversation. Campus and local organizing has been extremely beneficial in creating local infrastructure and strong student leaders on this issue. The PSAs, donated and earned media have created the environment where campus level work can thrive.

  4. What have you accomplished so far, and what is the campaign doing now?

    The campaign has seen enormous success since its launch. Over 270,000 people have taken the It's On Us pledge on our website.

    Since the campaign launched last September, It's On Us has hosted over 1,100 events on 483 campuses in 48 states and 11 countries. Many of these events have taken place during the campaign's Weeks of Action, or in coordination with the release of new creative content. Additionally, over 300 schools have created their own It's On Us PSAs. The campaign will continue to engage students through online and offline engagement.

    It's On Us also launched our Student Advisory Committee comprised of 17 student leaders who will assist in shaping the strategic national vision for the campaign and create robust programs on their campuses. Committee members will serve a full-year term and participate in a series of digital, organizing, and press trainings to boost their skillset and become national leaders on sexual assault prevention. The application process was highly competitive with over 100 applicants for 17 spots. The Student Advisory Committee includes student athletes, fraternity and sorority members, student body presidents, and individuals involved with their school's sexual assault prevention programs.

    Additionally, It's On Us is beginning to expand beyond campuses and into communities.  It's On Us Communities brings together parents, community members, school district administrators, local business owners, the police department, and other key local leaders to create communities where sexual assault and domestic violence is unacceptable and survivors are supported. This critical component of the campaign builds on our existing best practices and the work that communities are already doing to combat sexual assault, while bringing new mechanisms for large-scale community engagement.

  5. Do you have any measurable outcomes?  We are particularly interested in demonstrable reductions of sexual assault.

    While culture change is challenging to measure, there are several indicators that allow us to know the campaign has created a shift in the dialogue and is shaping a new narrative around sexual assault. Over the past year, there has been an increase in the number of complaints filed by students and invested by the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education. The campaign has created an awareness movement around the issue  of campus sexual assault, so while it is difficult to measure a decrease in occurrences of sexual assault, it is possible to measure the campus events, social media interactions, and the number of pledges being taken.

    The goal of It's On Us is to shift the narrative around sexual assault, and it's clear from our metrics of online engagement that this is an issue being heavily discussed on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Additionally, the campaign is working with tens of thousands of students across the country to host campus events and discussions. Over the past year, over 1,100 events have been registered with the campaign. As we expand our efforts, It's On Us will be working directly with school administrators to build bystander intervention and consent programs with campus-wide measurable outcomes via campus climate surveys and other evaluation tools.

  6. How might the campaign, or something like it, be transferable to the workplace?

    Whether we are implementing the campaign on a college campus, in a community, or with a partner, what makes It's On Us work is the community that engages. A workplace is also similar to a campus in that new students, or in this case, employees, are put through an initial orientation. We strive to educate college students on the issue during their first week on campus, whether that be through trainings, events, or pledge drives, so that they carry it with them throughout the entire course of their education. This practice could easily be applied to the orientation process for a new employee, and would thus set the tone and culture of zero tolerance policies on workplace harassment. Bystander intervention is a crucial component of the It's On Us campaign and is applicable in an office environment in which co-workers are empowered and equipped to step in on behalf of their cohorts. Additionally, the framing and language piece of the campaign is incredibly important in that it sparks conversation about what is currently and what should be socially acceptable.