Former Vice President Joe Biden gave blunt admonishment to male college students Wednesday on how they can end sexual assault by respecting consent, and challenged them to fight the culture of silence and victim blaming.
“Guys, a woman who is dead drunk cannot consent — You are raping her!” he said. “We’ve got to talk about this. Consent requires affirmative consent!”
Biden spoke frankly to a hushed arena of students at George Mason University on behalf of his “It’s On Us” initiative.
He encouraged both men and women to speak up to stop an assault from happening, but placed particular onus on men to challenge the false narrative that being a man means mistreating a woman.
“It’s our responsibility, men in particular, but all of us, to stop this culture,” he said. “If you can’t get her to say ‘yes’ because she wants to, you ain’t much.”
According to research from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women are sexually assaulted in college, but more than 90 percent of victims do not report the crime.
Throughout the speech, Biden railed against victim blaming and didn’t shy away from headline-grabbing allegations of assault, alluding to President Donald Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape and “locker room talk.”
Biden stressed there is no locker room where where that kind of language is acceptable.
“The guys who’re usually saying that are usually the ugliest sons of bit… guns in the room,” Biden said to cheers. Later he praised the women who had the courage to speak out against Bill O’Reilly.
“You know you’re making progress when you have the most popular talking head on television losing his job because of harassment,” he said.
Biden has long been a champion of ending assault and violence against women. As vice president he appointed the first White House adviser on violence against women and launched the “It’s On Us” campaign alongside President Obama.
In 1994, he authored and championed the Violence Against Women Act and fought to push it through Congress. But he also came under fire for the way he handled Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual assault during during Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ 1991 confirmation hearing.
He said those experiences, and the values that his father instilled in him at a young age, inspired him to become a life-long crusader for women.
“We will have succeeded when no woman who is abused ever instinctively asks the question, ‘What did I do?,'” he said.