President Barack Obama speaks at an event on April 7, 2014 in Bladensburg, Md.
Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

Obama delivers sexual assault message at the Grammys: ‘It has to stop’

Updated

President Obama made a surprise appearance at the Grammys on Sunday night – in the form of a powerful PSA for the White House’s sexual violence awareness campaign, “It’s On Us.”

In the ad, President Obama tells viewers that nearly one in five American women will be raped, and nearly one in four will experience some form of domestic violence. He then urges viewers to take responsibility for ending rape and sexual assault, saying: “It’s not okay – and it has to stop.”

Obama also called on artists at the Grammys to get involved, telling viewers, “Go to itsonus.org and and take the pledge. And to the artists at the Grammys tonight, I ask you to ask your fans to do the same too.”

“It’s on us – all of us - to create a culture where violence isn’t tolerated, where survivors are supported, and where all our young people – men and women – can go as far as their talents and their dreams will take them,” Obama said.

The ad is part of the White House’s ongoing sexual assault awareness campaign, “It’s On Us.” The White House launched the campaign in September as part of an effort to fight the campus sexual assault epidemic. Their first PSA, released in September, featured dozens of celebrities, including actors John Hamm, Kerry Washington, Joel McHale, and Rose Byrne, musicians Common and Questlove, and Vice President Joe Biden, urging Americans that “it’s on us” to end sexual assault. The ad has over 2.7 million views on YouTube. 

Immediately following Obama’s PSA, Brooke Axtell, a survivor of domestic violence took the stage and delivered a moving spoken word piece about surviving domestic assault at the hands of her partner, and eventually leaving him. 

“Authentic love does not devalue another human being. Authentic love does not silence, shame, or abuse. If you are in a relationship with someone who does not honor and respect you, I want you to know that you are worthy of love. Please reach out for help. Your voice will save you,” Axtell said. After Axtell’s performance ended, singer Katy Perry took to the stage to perform her song “By the Grace of God.” 

In an interview with Slate, Axtell said she had been contacted by Ken Ehrlich, executive producer of the Grammys, who told her that the producers of the Grammys wanted to highlight the issue of violence against women at this year’s awards show. 

Barack Obama, Music and Sexual Assault

Obama delivers sexual assault message at the Grammys: 'It has to stop'

Updated