Remarks by Governor Wolf at the Launch of “It’s On Us PA”
January 29, 2016
I am proud to announce “It’s On Us PA” – the first statewide effort to address the crisis of campus sexual assault.
This builds on the White House “It’s On Us” campaign.
This initiative has three goals.
First, to improve awareness, prevention, reporting and response systems in the commonwealth.
Second, to remove or at least reduce barriers that prevent survivors from reporting sexual assault.
And third, to demonstrate that we are committed – at all levels – to the task of eradicating this scourge in Pennsylvania.
This campaign is very important.
We need to treat sexual assault in our schools and colleges as the serious problem it truly is.
We need to agree that we’re not going to put up with it any longer.
That’s because sexual assault has a corrosive effect on all of us. It clearly affects its survivors. It affects the friends, colleagues and family members of the survivor. It affects us all. And it happens a lot.
Sexual violence is unfortunately pervasive in our society. It affects an estimated 1 in 5 college women.
Nearly 20% of young women between the ages of 14 and 17 are sexually assaulted — mostly by someone the survivor knows and trusts: a classmate, a supposed friend, a relative, or a family member.
And the impact is serious and widespread.
First of all, sexual assault – wherever it occurs – clearly imposes a huge burden on the survivors. The individual consequences are clear.
Survivors are more likely to experience immediate and long-term health issues like:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – 94%
- Depression – 75%
- And suicidal tendencies – 35-50%
Survivors are more likely than their peers to abuse alcohol. They are more likely to drop out of school. They are likely to have a lower GPA in college.
All of which leads to an average reduction in lifetime income of over $240,000. That’s a $15.1 billion cost for Pennsylvania over the lives of these survivors in our state. So there are clear costs to the survivors of sexual assault.
But, there are also clear costs to those living and studying around them.
When someone else is sexually assaulted it reflects – and often reinforces – a number of negative forces.
It promotes a culture of unfairness and discrimination. It feeds on the pernicious idea that some people have clearer rights than others. That some are more equal than others.
It builds an environment of fear among the community of friends, acquaintances and neighbors who know of the survivor’s ordeal. And this inhibits and restricts freedom of action on the part of that entire community.
Sexual assault places a barrier between people who have become concerned about the possibility of sexual assault and those with whom they might otherwise interact freely. It dampens the open exchange of everything from ideas to feelings.
Finally, sexual assault reduces the quality of life for us all.
Safety is a fundamental civil right and sexual assault is a clear violation of that civil right. When that violation occurs for any member of a community, it violates the right of everyone to a safe society.
A society in which sexual assault is a big problem is a society in which the core values we claim to hold dear – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – are little more that empty ideals.
We need to end sexual assault.
To this end, I have directed my administration to address this problem over the course of the next year.
We have great partners in this effort. Over 40 colleges, universities and school districts in Pennsylvania have signed the pledge to join the “It’s On Us” campaign. And the hope is that many more will join this group.
We also have a network of 50 rape crisis centers across the state ready and willing to work with our schools, colleges and universities.
I am determined to make Pennsylvania a shining example to the rest of the world as to what committed citizens can do to make our world better.
It’s truly on all of us to accomplish this.
Let’s get to work.
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