Anti-Sexual Assault Campaign ‘More Relevant Than Ever’ at Dawn of Trump Presidency

New 'It's On Us' PSA highlights real-life heroes

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"It's On Us," a White House campaign with agency Mekanism started in 2014 to combat sexual assault on college campuses, is launching a new PSA today at a time when its message seems more important than ever, according to Mekanism's CEO, right after the election of Donald Trump as president.

One in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted before they leave college, according to "It's On Us," which aims to turn the tide on those kinds of statistics.

President-elect Trump was caught on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women to Access Hollywood's Billy Bush in 2005, an incident Trump dismissed on the campaign trail as "locker room talk." A number of women have accused Trump of sexual assault or harassment over the years, including a former People magazine reporter, former Miss USA contestants and Trump's former employees.

"We're putting a misogynistic bully into the highest job in the land, so we feel that it's more important than ever to have zero tolerance for sexual assault and for the country to not be bystanders," said Jason Harris, CEO of Mekanism. "It's scary times, but it makes the campaign more important and relevant than ever."

Brendan Gahan, founder of Epic Signal, Mekanism's social media arm, agrees. "Despite what the president-elect has said, sexual assault is definitely not OK, and it's not locker room talk," he said. "It's a good time to get this message out there and reinforce that this behavior is absolutely unacceptable."

The goal of "It's On Us" is to inspire everyone to see it as his or her responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent sexual assault. Under the Trump administration, the campaign will continue to be run by the nonprofit Civic Nation.

Past "It's On Us" videos have featured celebrities like Jon Hamm, Kerry Washington, and Vice President Joe Biden, and Lady Gaga promoted the initiative as part of her performance at this year's Oscars.

The new video, developed by Mekanism, Epic Signal and entertainment company Above Average, with post production services provided by Broadway Video, features real-life heroes who stepped in to stop sexual assault. They include Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson, the Swedish grad students who intervened when they saw an unconscious young woman being sexually assaulted by Brock Turner at Stanford University in January 2015, and Monica Kenyon, Sonia Urlich, and Marla Saltzer, who intervened when they saw a man drug his date's wine earlier this year in a restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif.

"We're grateful that we can share the story of doing something – that everyone can make a difference by doing one thing," Urlich said. "It's not as hard or embarrassing as people may think."

Seven social media influencers, including artist and photographer Chase Jarvis, also appear in the video.

"When I heard the stats [on sexual assault], I was shocked," Jarvis said. "It isn't a problem for women or at-risk groups; it's a problem for all of us. It's about changing the conversation about rape and sexual assault. When we change the conversation, we effect change."

Since the launch of the campaign, 380,000 people have signed the "It's On Us" online pledge to help stop sexual assault, and 1,700 campus events have been held in support of its mission.

"It's grown as a movement because students and communities have answered that call to action," said Rebecca Kaplan, director of "It's On Us" and Civic Nation. "It's made this issue less scary to talk about because we've been able to say, 'Here's how you can be a part of the solution.'" 

@ChristineBirkne Christine Birkner is a Chicago-based freelance writer who covers marketing and advertising.