NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Joe Biden called upon Rutgers University students to take an active stance to end sexual assault during a discussion October 12 visit to the university.
The former vice president was on campus speaking for the “It’s On Us” nationwide campaign against sexual assault on college campuses.
An estimated 1,000 students and Rutgers affiliates attended, breaking out into applause throughout the rally.
The event was part of Rutgers’ week-long “Turn the Campus Purple” campaign, focused on understanding and preventing domestic abuse, sexual assault and relationship violence.
Biden commended Rutgers’ leadership in working to end sexual assault, citing 24-hour service for victims and leading the country in research. But he said more must be done.
“Everyone has a role in changing the culture that enables sexual violence,” Biden said.
“We want to make it clear to everyone, from the president to the dean of students, to the coaches, you all have a responsibility to speak upwhen you see (sexual assault),” Biden said, “We’re calling on men to step, in, whether it’s at a bar, or a party, or a dorm room.”
Indeed, a slam poetry skit put on by three students, Marwa Adina, Dena Igusti, Justice Hehir, prior to Biden’s appearance, called on male college students, especially those in Greek life, to actively organize against sexual assault.
The performance criticized the practice of ratio at fraternity parties, saying “our value changing base on the ratio,” and also called out an alleged practice in some fraternities of maintaining that “we’re not like all the other Greek organizations.”
Biden cited as many as one in five women in college being the victims of sexual assault, adding that sexual assault is the main reason women will drop out of college.
Yet sexual assault has “buried and ingrained” itself into society and “enshrined in our legal system,” Biden said, making it all the more harder to advocates to put an end to it.
“Why wasn’t the dinner ready when I came home, why did you speak to him that way,” Biden asked rhetorically, citing one example.
The former vice president also took the opportunity to chastise the Trump administration’s stance, or lack thereof, of campus sexual assault.
“I know the president talks about locker room talk. They didn't talk that way in my locker room,” Biden said, prompting cheers from the crowd.
Biden was also critical of US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s decision to rescind Obama-era Title IX guidelines, which required schools to use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard when judging sexual violence cases.
That standard calls for enough evidence to show that something is more likely than not to be true.
Preceding Biden’s appearance, a number of different students had the chance to tell the crowd their stories of how they’ve survived domestic abuse or sexual assault, and the road to recovery.
One student, Cassandra Grod, spoke of how she was affected by two separate stalkers.
“My first boyfriend was the poster child of narcissism, and followed the step-by-step directions,” Grod said. “He began to physically abuse me, but then he’d also bring me roses.”
Eventually, Grod said, the stalking reached the point where she was sexually assaulted. In the months to follow, Grod said she suffered with binge eating and purging rituals.
Six months later, Grod’s mother convinced her to attend therapy, during which she was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.
“I’m living a shame-free life, in spite of a society that tells me I don't deserve to,” Grod told the crowd, to cheers from the crowd.