Campus sexual assault has become a major issue. It’s been estimated that one in five college-aged women experience sexual misconduct in their four years on campus.
West Chester student advocate Mary O’Leary explained, “Since I’ve lived in an apartment with four other girls, it’s really put into perspective that one of us could have been a target.”
Working to combat assault, West Chester University student organizations are adopting the It’s On Us campaign.
Last week the Center for Women and Gender Equity hosted the “‘It’s On Us’ Week of Action” from Oct. 23 to 27 to raise awareness of the issue and encourage bystander intervention.
Generated by a White House task force under the Obama Administration and headed by Joe Biden, the It’s On Us campaign launched in September 2014 aims to recognize and identify sexual assault and to encourage intervention to create safe campus environments.
Many campuses nationwide including Kutztown University and now West Chester University have adopted It’s On Us.
Libby Thorson, coordinator of healthy masculinity and violence prevention programs at West Chester’s Center for Women and Gender Equity explains, “It’s On Us truly focuses on the power of the individual through means of education and the empowerment of the bystander to intervene,” she says. “Equally important, It’s On Us aims to create a supportive campus culture for survivors.”
According to Thorson, over 300 people signed the pledge on campus during the Week of Action.
“We have received positive feedback and engagement with students, staff and faculty about the campaign,” she said.
Thorson attributes part of the positive response to endorsements by celebrities such as Lady Gaga. Other celebrities including Randy Jackson, Olivia Munn, Lance Bass and Questlove have also voiced support of the campaign.
Thorson encourages students to complete the Green Dot program which focuses on ending all campus violence in addition to taking the It’s On Us pledge. Students play a crucial role in changing campus culture related to all types of violence including sexual assault.
Professor Simon Ruchti, a Women’s and Gender Studies department faculty member, comments on how students can look out for potential victims of sexual assault, saying: “When you see someone being targeted by someone for unwanted sexual interactions, let that person know what is going on,” she said. “Let them know you have their back, and then actually have their back.”
Sarah Kratz is a fourth-year student majoring in English writings track with a minor in sociology. She can be reached at SK822925@wcupa.edu.
Danielle Craven is a fourth-year student majoring in communications studies with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at DC829943@wcupa.edu.