The White House is enlisting the help of several male celebrities in a new public service ad as the administration makes its pitch to curb sexual assault on college campuses.
Along with Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama, the ad features Daniel Craig, Benicio del Toro, Steve Carell, Seth Meyers and Dulé Hill, who played Charlie on the West Wing, talking about the need to stop sexual assaults.
“We have a big problem, and we need your help,” del Toro says in the minute-long ad.
Biden unveiled the PSA today during a White House event introducing new guidelines for college campuses to help curb sexual assaults. He said he personally reached out to the actors involved and they all asked what they could do to help. Biden gave an impassioned speech on the issue, raising his voice and pounding his fists on the podium at times.
“No man has a right ever to raise his hand to a women period. It is assault if they do,” said Biden to sustained applause.
He stressed that victims should not be “re-assaulted” by personal questions during campus investigations of sexual assault that call into question the victim’s actions, while letting the perpetrator off the hook.
“We almost always ask the wrong questions when it comes to sexual assault,” Biden said. “We continue to ask questions like ‘What were you wearing? What did you say? What did you?’”
“The real question is what made him think that he had the right to do what he did?” Biden said, adding that the message needs to be sent that there are no extenuating circumstances when it comes to rape.
“No means no, whenever it is stated,” he said
The vice president was introduced by a young woman named Madeleine Smith, a graduate of Harvard University who was raped on campus two years ago and started speaking out about the way the university handled the investigation.
She was near tears as she described her experience and dealing with “the good guys” at the university, those who helped her, and “the bad guys,” faculty members that she said sided with her alleged attacker. She stressed that the new guidelines were needed to help administrators, who were not good or bad, but hampered by university bureaucracy in dealing with rape.
Smith thanked Biden for his leadership on the issue by calling him a “good guy” and giving him a hug. The vice president closed his remarks by thanking Smith for her courage in coming forward and sharing her story “with the nation.”
Sens. Claire McCaskill, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bob Casey and Richard Blumenthal, whom Biden also called “good guys,” attended as well.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also helped unveil a new website, www.notalone.gov, which outlines the new guidelines and includes hotlines and resources for students and schools. One of the new guidelines stipulates that universities and colleges receiving federal funds must investigate sexual assault claims or be in violation of the Title IX equal rights law.
“I challenge every college and university if they are really serious about protecting students to conduct anonymous surveys,” Biden said. “They have a moral responsibility to know what is happening on their campus.”