Joe Biden’s visit to Champaign-Urbana made a huge impact on at least three people, and I suspect those three will remember it all their lives.

Two of them fainted. They were attended by medics. The third left the CRCE gymnasium visibly shaken, crying.

Biden’s “It’s On Us” speech is part of a campaign to get bystanders involved in sexual assaults, as they happen, and stop them. Some portion of his audience comprised rape survivors, and he commended them on their courage at least twice, and thanked them for finding the strength to join the campaign, and speak publicly.

The media platform was situated at the back of the crowd. I couldn’t see from that vantage point whether the rape survivors formed an actual group. So I asked Tracy Abrams, who stood among a small group of student-athletes and other preferred audience members on a raised platform, stage right of Biden’s dais.

Abrams acknowledged that he saw the first woman faint. He didn’t see anyone crying, but said he saw a lot of intense expressions of the faces of many women. “It’s a big deal to a lot of people. It’s important,” he said.

Abrams appeared in the student-athletes’ version of the “It’s On Us” promotional video, created by the U of I.

Much of the Biden speech was smarmy, canned. But Biden’s recounting of Marla Hanson’s disfigurement got the crowd’s attention. So too did an anecdote about a co-ed who accepted the offer of a walk home from a male friend, only to be raped by him. Because she knew her rapist, Biden said, she didn’t realize it was rape until her R.A. found her, stunned, in her room following a “scalding shower.”

An hour later, at the Ubben & Corzine Basketball Practice Facility, Abrams’ teammate Mike LaTulip noted that Biden himself seems an unusual character to head this campaign, given his penchant for creepy touchy feelies.

Another Tracy, former Smile Politely Editor-in-Chief Tracy Nectoux, has been an outspoken champion of sexual empowerment for women and non-straights. I sought her opinion on the “It’s On Us” campaign.

I asked:

What do you think? Milquetoast campaign, or worthwhile message?

Is there a gradation of offenses, and perhaps a chart one might consult?

Friend pinches stranger's ass in bar. Level one alert. Memo: Keep vigilant.

Friend pinning comatose girl to mattress. Memo: Send anonymous email to Crimestoppers in morning.


My first reaction is that it's meaningless. "Take the pledge"?? Seriously? The message isn't "stop sexual assault," but rather, "I can do all of my activism and enact real change by sitting on my ass at my computer and signing online petitions/pledges all day."

My second reaction is, "Whatever." [shrug] It can't hurt, I guess. I doubt it's going to help anything. It's what passes for activism these days.

I'm glad I'm old.

But keep in mind that I didn't do an exhaustive study of this. My thoughts come from a five minute look through the site.

Not raping people seems a safe campaign to wage. It’s not like we’re telling our community to accept homosexuals and the transgendered. We’ll leave that to Wisconsin. They seem to be better at everything.

Even debonair power-forward Nigel Hayes participated in their campaign for queer equality. This video played on Kohl Center’s big board at halftime. (Memo to John Groce, Matt Bollant & Mike Thomas: We know you like Jesus. We haven’t heard your opinion on gay athletes. Can they play?)

In short, there’s plenty to feel cynical about re: Joe Biden and the “It’s On Us” campaign. I suppose someone will investigate & report the amount of your money spent flying one man in a Boeing 757 to CMI to remind you not to rape people.

But to those three women overcome by emotion, and probably to a few others in the room, Biden’s visit marked an important milestone on the road to recovery. I’m glad they were there. And I’m glad they reacted as they did. They provided a stark reminder.