‘It’s On Us’ initiative assists in the fight against sexual assault at OSU

The Valley Library, a staple of the Oregon State community, on a sunny day in April.  

Jessica Boyd, Practicum Contributor

The video opens and focuses on actor Zoe Saldana with a solemn expression on her face. As different celebrities flash on the screen, lines explaining consent are spoken, concluding with a call to action to take the pledge. From Saldana to Josh Hutcherson, several important figures have been supportive of the “It’s On Us” campaign since the program was announced in September 2014 by former President Barack Obama.

“It’s On Us” is an initiative dedicated to assisting in the fight against sexual assault. Along with public figures, many organizations such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Pac-12 have joined the cause, according to the “It’s On Us” website. “It’s On Us” has spread to over 200 campuses nationwide, with Oregon State University adopting it onto campus in 2014.

This campaign is designed to create campus environments where sexual assault does not exist, according to the White House Archives website. “It’s On Us” does this by shifting responsibility onto all members of campus communities, so that no one takes on the role of a bystander. By holding everyone at a university accountable, it creates a culture where survivors are encouraged to share their stories, and helps others speak up instead of standing by.

“‘It’s On Us’ aims to fundamentally shift the way we think about sexual assault, by inspiring everyone to see it as their responsibility to do something, big or small, to prevent it,” the White House Archives website states. “The campaign reflects the belief that sexual assault isn’t just an issue involving a crime committed by a perpetrator against a victim, but one in which the rest of us also have a role to play.”

According to the “It’s On Us” website, the initiative also aims to define consent in a culture where the lines can be blurred. Tips to clearly understand consent are also found on the campaign’s website.

“Consent is voluntary and mutual and can be withdrawn at any time. Past consent does not mean current or future consent,” the “It’s On Us” website states. “There is no consent when there is force, intimidation or coercion.”

At OSU, “It’s On Us” falls under the Associated Students of Oregon State University umbrella and OSU’s campus works to offer many aspects of the campaign, according to ASOSU President Rachel Grisham.

“One of the continuing goals is to change the culture and create a culture that is more inviting and more supportive of survivors,” Grisham said. “Also to continue to have a multifaceted approach to sexual violence prevention. There’s education and talking about what consent is. There is education around bystander intervention and how students can intervene. And lastly, reactive work and guiding folks towards resources.”

According to Michelle Bangen, associate director for prevention and wellness at OSU, the campaign is a collaborative effort on campus.

“ASOSU continues to partner with the Prevention, Advocacy and Wellness team at Student Health Services to promote sexual violence prevention and support for survivors,” Bangen said in an email. “They contribute to the work of the Prevention and Advocacy Coalition charged by Dr. Susie Brubaker-Cole and Clay Simmons, and they support the broad implementation of ‘Beavers Give A Dam,’ PAW’s marquee bystander intervention program across campus.”

Getting involved in the campaign is accessible for all members of the community, according to Grisham.

“It’s a pretty inviting campaign where there is few barriers to access, you just really need to be a caring person in the community to engage in the pledge,” Grisham said. “That could apply to anyone and hopefully everyone.”

OSU “It’s On Us” and ASOSU want engagement from even more of the OSU community, Grisham said.

“I think that we’re not done until every single person on this campus thinks this is important and has taken the pledge,” Grisham said. “We also want to get to a place where we are not just signing our name and taking the pledge, but we are actually thinking about every interaction we have and how can we eliminate victim blaming, support survivors that come out in our community and move towards this believing, supporting and listening.”

According to the associate director of OSU’s Survivor Advocacy and Resource Center, Judy Neighbours, student involvement can be powerful.

“We would like to see the student organizations become even more involved, because we understand the power of a message coming from invested groups who are committed to reducing the occurrence of sexual violence among their friends and colleagues,” Neighbours said in an email.

Greater involvement of the OSU community could increase the number of assaults getting reported, according to Bangen.

“The number of students willing to engage in difficult conversations around sexual violence and the number of survivors who now feel safe to come forward for support encourage me,” Bangen said in an email. “While it may seem counter-intuitive, it is well established that strong prevention practices help create a community of care, ultimately increasing report rates. This is so important given that sexual assault is the most underreported crime in America, with as few as five to 10 percent of victims coming forward.”

Because of this, OSU is striving toward more involvement, Neighbours said.

“OSU has a number of events during Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” Neighbours said in an email. “Each event has a goal of increasing awareness of those factors that contribute to sexual violence, to those actions people can take to reduce violence and to supporting those who have experienced the negative impact of sexual violence.”

Individuals can take the pledge at the official “It’s On Us website” or visit the ASOSU office in the Student Experience Center. For more information, contact ASOSU at [email protected].

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