Junior Rennie Harrison spent Tuesday, Oct. 4, the day of the vice presidential debate, with a man who knows a thing or two about being VP. Harrison attended a gathering of the It’s On Us national committee at the Washington, D.C., home of Vice President Joe Biden.

It’s On Us is a nationwide, typically student-run movement started in 2014 by Biden and President Barack Obama. Harrison, a leader in the recently formed student group Spiders Against Sexual Assault, explained that the goal of the association is to “change the conversation about sexual assault on college campuses.”

Last year, Harrison was involved with the sexual assault student advisory board, but she said she felt the need to do more. She, along with hundreds of other students around the country, applied to be part of the national It’s On Us organization in an effort to become a catalyst for even bigger change. 

Harrison was among the 28 students accepted.

On Oct. 4, she, along with the 27 other students on the committee, filed into Biden’s foyer and was greeted by a quartet playing music. They were surrounded by the faces of various lawmakers and bureaucrats involved with the Violence Against Women Act. Harrison described these people as being “real individuals who had done really important work and caused change at the policy level.” She said she was ecstatic to be in their presence.

Hor d'oeuvres and wine were served as Biden gave a short speech and recognized three guests of honor who had actively prevented a sexual assault from occurring. He expressed how proud of them he was and presented them each with a Bystander Courage Award.

“[It was] really heartening to have a national leader hold women's safety at such a high priority,” Harrison said. She said the crux of the issue was “mutual respect and respecting women’s bodies.” The experience of listening to Biden, she said, was a validating one.

This invitation into Biden’s home and the feeling of being surrounded by people who shared her same passion has given Harrison determination and confidence going into the rest of the school year, she said. She said she was ready to face the systemic issues on Richmond’s campus that have caused victims to be mistreated.

“I’m ready to keep going at it, even though maintaining a high level of energy and passion after a huge controversy [such as the one that has recently occurred on Richmond’s campus] tends to be really hard, because people’s attention seems to fade away,” she said. 

Contact feature writer Kakie Pate at katharine.pate@richmond.edu.

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