Social media campaigns are only the first step toward change

The “It’s On Us” campaign is relying on social media to help end the issue of sexual assault on campuses. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

On Monday, USF students were surprised to find out that a fellow student was arrested Sunday and charged with sexual battery on a child over 12.

Coincidentally, website Funny or Die released a video public service announcement, starring Vice President Joe Biden and actor Adam Devine, that collaborated with the White House’s “It’s On Us” campaign in order to educate college students on sexual assaults on campus.

As with all Funny or Die videos, it attempted to use comedy to tell a greater message. Seeing as how one can’t ethically talk about sexual assault and rape in a comedic fashion, they tastefully directed the video to open on a funny note and quickly become serious as Biden started talking about the subject matter.

The “It’s On Us” campaign was launched in 2014 by Biden and President Barack Obama as “an awareness campaign to help put an end to sexual assault on college campuses,” according to the White House blog. 

It uses #ItsOnUs and celebrity endorsements, such as appearances in PSAs and celebrity lecturers on college campuses to try and spread awareness on the disturbing issue.

Their videos also ask students to take a pledge on that asks students to vow to refrain from participating or allowing sex without consent. 

“To recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault, to identify situations in which sexual assault may occur, to intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given, to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported,” is the vow taken by every pledger. 

Though the issue is often found trending on social media platforms, the real question becomes if a hashtag is enough to truly end sexual assault?

Many organizations like this one are aware of the importance of social media to the millennial generation, but they may overestimate its significance. 

Yes, campaigns like this spread awareness. While some people feel as if sexual assault cases are on the rise, statistics released by the Department of Justice in 2015 state that “the rate of sexual assault and rape has fallen 74 percent since 1993, from a rate of 4.3 assaults per 1000 people in 1993, to 1.1 per 1000 in 2014”, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. 

While these attacks are slowly decreasing, the awareness in the general public of those that do happen is quickly increasing because of campaigns like “It’s On Us.”

That being said, just because awareness is spreading it does not necessarily mean a larger decrease in sexual assault and rape cases is bound to occur. 

Unlike previous generations, millennials do not often take part in physical activism so much as use social media activism as a crutch to claim to be socially active without actually having to do any work.

They believe that a simple hashtag is enough, that they can change the world from their keyboards.

However, reality has shown simply getting an issue trending will not equate to change. In 2014, over 270 female students were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Nigeria. 

A short time later, #BringBackOurGirls starting trending on social media as a way to raise awareness of the situation. Two years later, over 230 of the girls are still missing and the hashtag is vaguely remembered by the thousands that used it in a moment of passion.

Sexual assault is an issue that needs to be eradicated. Awareness is obviously the first step in that process but it is crucial to realize it is simply one step in a long walk toward change. Unless millennials begin to follow through with their online passion, real change is not going to ever occur on the issues so many claim to care about. 


Nicole Cate is a senior majoring in mass communications.