Vice President Joe Biden made a unusual cameo at the Academy Awards Sunday with the goal of introducing an audience of cultural influencers to a serious topic: campus rape. Biden promoted his "It's On Us" campaign against sexual assault, which the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center writes on its website is the No. 1 violent crime on American college campuses. About 3,900 forcible sex crimes on campus were reported in 2012, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
"Despite significant progress over the last few years, too many women and men, on and off college campuses, are still victims of sexual abuse,'" Biden said, according to Mic. "We must and we can change the culture."
Other statistics also indicate the problem is widespread. Roughly one out of five women and one in every 16 men in the U.S. experience sexual assault before they graduate from college, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Data from the Department of Justice found that from 1995 to 2013, women 18 to 24 years old experienced the highest rate of assault victimization of any age group.
Most victims do not report the incidents to law enforcement. About a quarter of students said they avoided telling police because it was too personal, and another 20 percent said they feared retaliation.
"I think one takeaway is that this problem is a broad problem within society as well as on campus, so I think it's something all of us have to be concerned about," Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities, told CNN last year. A poll the association recently conducted found undergraduates at private universities were more likely to be assaulted than those at public schools.
As of December, more than 150 higher education institutions were under government investigation for mishandling sexual assault cases, according to the Huffington Post.
Biden's It's On Us initiative marked its first anniversary last September. But the VP and President Barack Obama weren't the only politicians demanding action on the issue. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has been vocal in pushing for legislation to hold colleges accountable for sex crimes on campus.
"How many surveys will it take before we act with the urgency these crimes demand?" she said in a statement last year.