West Chester University is gearing up to receive a $30,000 grant from It’s On Us PA, a program aimed at preventing sexual assault. The funds will assist the university in expanding its efforts through the It’s On Us initiative and Green Dot Bystander Intervention program.
The actual number of nationwide college sexual assault cases is hard to ascertain, mainly because no single government agency or entity tracks that data. However, the 2017 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report does provide some information on the prevalence of sexual violence at WCU. According to the report, there were seven reported rape cases in 2016. That same year, there were also 42 reported dating violence cases, a term that encompasses “sexual abuse,” according to the definition found in the report.
It’s On Us was launched in 2014 by the Obama administration as an initiative to raise awareness of and end sexual assault on college campuses. This effort includes providing assistance to schools that receive federal funding on how to fulfill their legal obligations in addressing sexual assault, reevaluate the effectiveness of existing sexual assault legislation and the creation of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. In 2016, Governor Wolf introduced It’s On Us PA, the commonwealth’s application of the national program by the same name. The 2017 It’s On Us Week of Action was largely considered a success and the recent funding will be used to promote and support the 2018 It’s On Us Week of Action, taking place Sunday, April 1 through Saturday, April 7.
The other program that will receive a portion of the funds is the Green Dot Bystander Intervention. Green Dot is a program aimed at encouraging and equipping everyone who sees or anticipates a violent situation to speak up. It also seeks to increase reporting of cases involving sexual assault or violence. Green Dot Graduate Assistant Julie Belling is especially excited about the grant.
“This grant will allow these programs to increase the violence prevention work that they already do. Some ways in which it will do this is through capacity building and strategic planning. It will also create more opportunities for programming and continued collaboration with violence prevention partners on campus and in the community … This grant will allow a broader scope to educate about awareness, prevention, reporting and sexual misconduct resources with students, faculty, staff and other stakeholders.” She also stated that there will be an It’s On Us kick-off event in the fall of 2018 to engage students and faculty in violence awareness and prevention.
Sexual assault prevention and awareness has also taken on some more creative forms. On Wednesday, March 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., The Center for Women & Gender Equity will present the It’s On Us Art Gala in the Philips Autograph Library. The artwork and performances will focus on “personal experience with violence.” Guests are advised to use discretion due to the nature of the content.
Green Dot Graduate Assistant Belling can be reached via email at JB809497@wcupa.edu.
Olivia Bortner is a third-year student majoring in marketing. ✉ OB876952@wcupa.edu.