Joe Biden hadn't considered this point about rape, and he sure felt 'stupid.'
"No means no."
In typical Joe Biden fashion, the vice president didn't hold back when discussing sexual assault at the University of Pittsburgh.
But his impassioned speech in front of nearly 1,000 students on April 5, 2016, was especially candid — even by Biden's standards.
The vice president, who has championed the issue for decades, hit on several key aspects while dissecting the problem of sexual assault — a quiet crisis that's affecting nearly 1 in 5 college women. He also revealed how "stupid" he'd felt years ago after failing to recognize a key component in preventing the crime.
Here are three vital points Biden discussed on Tuesday:
1. Our legal system still blames the victims, and that's inexcusable.
“The legal system and the court of public opinion still allowed prosecutors to ask victims of rape, 'What were you wearing?’ ... This is not a joke. This is deadly freakin’ earnest, man. What difference does it make what a woman was wearing? ... No one, particularly a court of law, has the right to ask any of those questions."
Alcohol and short skirts don't cause rape. Rapists do. Yet court judges have been known to still focus on irrelevant factors that imply victims were either "asking for it" or unwise enough to put themselves in dangerous scenarios.
These arguments miss the point entirely and add weight to the idea that victims are partly responsible for their assaults. Rapists are the sole cause of rape — end of story.
2. We need to stop asking "Why didn’t you just leave?" and focus on supporting victims and survivors instead.
“Do you know the question I most often got [when I was trying to pass the Violence Against Women Act]? ‘Why didn’t she just leave?’ ‘Why didn’t she say something?’ … Imagine the courage it takes for a woman locked in the worst prison in the world, her own home, to be able to pick up the phone and call. Think of the courage it takes to say, ‘help me.’”
Leaving an abusive partner isn't as simple as walking out the door.
Many victims fear for their lives if they leave. They fear what will happen to their children or other family members. They're ashamed and afraid of how they'll be perceived. And the psychological effects abuse can have can keep a victim from believing he or she deserves better.
Leaving an abusive partner and asking for help is rarely easy and almost never as simple as it sounds.
3. It's absolutely necessary that men stand up against sexual assault too — something that wasn't always obvious to Biden.
“You know what stunned me? It made me feel stupid [that] I didn’t figure it out before. The overwhelming response we got back from young girls and women was 'Get men involved.'"
The overwhelming majority of sexual assault perpetrators are male. So why don't we demand more men understand this issue and fight to prevent it?
Biden teamed up with "Orange Is the New Black" and "How to Get Away With Murder" star Matt McGorry to drive this point home in Pittsburgh. The actor also spoke out about how men can be doing more to end this culture.
Biden's inspiring speech won't cause change on its own. It takes all of us working together to make that change happen.
Promise not to be a bystander if you witness sexual assault by taking the It's On Us pledge. You can learn more about the issue and how we can promote positive change. And if you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault, you can find help.