Biden at SU

Joe Biden speaks at Syracuse University about sexual assault prevention

Logan Reidsma | Photo Editor

Joe Biden encouraged audience members on Thursday to stand up in the fight against sexual assault and relationship violence. Biden spoke for about a half hour in Goldstein Auditorium on Thursday.

Domestic violence is the worst kind of violence, Joe Biden told a packed Goldstein Auditorium on Thursday.

Biden said he hates the term “domestic violence” because it sounds like a “domesticated cat.”

Biden, an alumnus of the Syracuse University College of Law, addressed the Goldstein crowd around 12:45 p.m. The vice president spoke at SU as a part of a four-stop college tour to address the prevention of sexual assault and relationship violence on college campuses. He encouraged those in attendance to stand up against sexual assault and relationship violence, especially calling on men to get involved.

“We need a fundamental change in our culture,” Biden said. “And the quickest way to change our culture is the change on the campuses of America.”

The tour is part of the White House’s public awareness campaign “It’s On Us,” which aims to end sexual assault on college campuses. This week is the “It’s On Us” National Week of Action.

The reason Biden has focused so much on sexual assault prevention, he said, is that he thinks the communities that exist on college campuses provide the best place to eliminate violence against women.

Biden, who was scheduled to speak at 12:15 p.m., joined Samantha Skaller, a junior at SU who was selected to serve on the national It’s On Us Student Advisory Committee, on the stage at 12:43 p.m. He left the stage at 1:25 p.m.

“It’s good to be home,” Biden said at the beginning of his remarks. “Chancellor, thanks for allowing me back on campus.”

Biden spoke on sexual assault, calling it a “heinous crime.” He said it is important to change the culture surrounding sexual assault and “bring victims out of the shadows.”

Biden also commended the courage of survivors of sexual assault and applauded Skaller for speaking out about her rape. He added that sexual violence does not discriminate on college campuses.

“You know that sexual assault isn’t about sex,” he said. “It’s about power.”

Biden recounted the story of a model who was assaulted by two “goons” hired by her landlord when she refused his advances. The men used a razor to try and slash her face.

When the model told her mother, the questions her mother asked ranged from “Why were you in a bar?” to “What were you wearing?” Biden said.

Biden realized it was important to take action against sexual violence, he said, and he drafted the Violence Against Women Act in 1990 when he was a senator representing Delaware. In 1994 it was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton.

“This is a matter of, I think, national consequence for us,” Biden said.

Biden said he has a staff who works on sexual assault prevention. His staff members realized it was important to get men involved in the fight against sexual violence in order for that fight to work, Biden said, and so he and President Barack Obama created the “It’s On Us” campaign.

“The truth is, guys, one assault is too many,” Biden said.

He encouraged every person in the room to take the It’s On Us pledge, and hold their universities accountable for their stances against sexual assault. He especially encouraged men to get involved in the fight against sexual violence.

“It’s about being responsible,” Biden said. “It’s about making sure everyone you know understands that ‘no means no.’ No exceptions.”

He said it is hard for men to step in on campuses, and mentioned how his late son, Beau, who died in May, once stepped in against a team captain, and was beaten up for doing so.

Beau’s little brother defended him, Biden said, and “beat the hell out of the captain.”

“My generic point is, it’s not easy,” Biden said.” It takes a lot of courage for a man to step in.”

To those who think that the culture around sexual assault can’t change, Biden said to think of the progress this generation of college students has made in regard to LGBT rights. He recalled a moment he shared four years ago with the president, when he bet him that the significant majority of the American people support same-sex marriage.

Polls taken the next week showed that 56 percent of Americans were in support of same-sex marriage, he said. Biden was right.

“It is up to all of you to have the gumption to stand up and speak out,” Biden said. “It’s on you, it’s on me, it’s on us.”

Rep. John Katko and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also spoke at the event. Gillibrand commended Biden’s dedication to sexual assault prevention and his work on the Violence Against Women Act.

Chancellor Kent Syverud spoke about the efforts of SU faculty, staff and students in preventing sexual assault and relationship violence on campus, and introduced Skaller.

Other speakers at the event included Student Association President Aysha Seedat; Cory Wallack, director of the Counseling Center and a member of the Sexual and Relationship Violence Response Team; Meaghan Greeley, a graduate student at SU and Vera House student representative; a representative from the Panhellenic Council; and Eric McGriff, a leader of A Men’s Issue at SU.

Musical performers included Main Squeeze, a women’s a cappella group at SU; Orange Appeal, a men’s a cappella group at SU; and the SU Marching Band. Free student tickets for the event were gone a few hours after becoming available.

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