Biden delivers simple message to SU crowd: 'It's on us' to end sexual assault

Vice President Joe Biden brought his fight to end violence against women to Goldstein Auditorium on Thursday.

Vice President Joe Biden addressed students in Goldstein Auditorium on Thursday as part of the It’s On Us Week of Action to end sexual assault on college campuses. He talked about his experiences on Capitol Hill fighting to end violence against women and said it was the responsibility of the community to stop it.

“Any time there’s no consent, it’s rape,” Biden said. “No consent means ‘no’ whether you’re conscious or unconscious.”

Photo: Amanda Piela
A packed Goldstein Auditorium heard Vice President Joe Biden encourage SU students to help end violence against women on college campuses.

See more photos of Biden's visit

He said research has found that one in five women will experience sexual assault before they graduate from college.

“One sexual assault is too many,” Biden said.

He called on everyone in the audience to speak up to stop sexual assault, but had a specific call to action for men.

“Are you living up to the standard that you think is required to be a man?” Biden asked. “The real definition of manhood is having the courage to do the right thing,” he said.

He also urged women to remember that it is often hard for men to step in and it can have consequences. He said that his late son, Beau Biden, the former attorney general of Delaware, “paid a price” for speaking up against the captain of one of the school’s athletic teams when he was in college.

Biden said that people used to avoid the topic of sexual assault and that victim blaming used to be lot more prevalent.

“If I know you, there must be something I did, the victim did,” Biden said. “I should have somehow known better. What a sick mentality.”

He shared stories of women  he worked with who had this mentality. He said that when he talked to these women, he realized something: “We have to change the cultural norm of this country as a whole.”

He told students he was optimistic that colleges could change the culture of sexual assault because of the impact the millennial generation has already had in the fight for marriage equality.

As early as 7:30 this morning, more than 50 students were already lined up for the vice president’s speech. Isaac Chevron arrived before 8:30 and was glad he was able to hear Biden speak.

“I thought he was very powerful,” Chevron said. “He made a lot of great remarks and he wasn’t beating around the bush. He was very forceful and said it like it was, which I think took a lot of guts, to get up there and really shout at the crowd and make it a call to action.”

Students who entered the auditorium early enough received free shirts and bracelets. After the event, students crowded Biden as he came off the stage, which prompted Biden to take selfies with the students and shake some of their hands, as well. Sophomore Angela Anastasi said she got to touch the vice president.

“[Of] the opportunities that I’ve had here at SU, this has got to be the most amazing,” Anastasi said. “I have no words.”

The event also included performances from two Syracuse a cappella groups, Orange Appeal and Main Squeeze. Todd Anastos, a member of Orange Appeal, said it was an honor to perform at the event, especially as a freshman.

“We’ve been rehearsing really hard and getting focused, so just having the mindset and just going out there and having fun so everyone can enjoy the show,” Anastos said.

Student and community leaders, including Student Association president Aysha Seedat, Chancellor Kent Syverud, Rep. John Katko (R-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), gave speeches at the event as well. PSAs about sexual assault were also featured.

As the final speaker at the event, Biden had a simple message.

“It’s on you,” he said. “It’s on me. It’s on us.”

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