April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and WVU Tech students, staff and faculty have been participating in a variety of events around campus in an effort to promote open dialogue about sexual, domestic and gender-based violence under the It’s On Us campaign.
It’s On Us is a national initiative launched by the White House last September as a means to address sexual assault on college campuses. White House blogger Tanya Somanader said that the campaign “asks everyone – men and women across America – to make a personal commitment to step off the sidelines and be part of the solution to campus sexual assault.”
It does so by asking students to visit Itsonus.org to take the campaign’s pledge. Those who take the pledge make the commitment to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault, to identify situations in which sexual assault may occur, to intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given, and to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.
It’s a simple, powerful promise, and one that can change lives.
“It’s so important to engage college students on issues such as sexual and domestic violence because this is the time in a young person’s life that they’re being shaped to be an adult,” said WVU Tech student Lindsay McDowall. “The things we learn and do now carry with us through adulthood. If we can instill this awareness in students now, then we can affect change for future generations.”
At WVU Tech, students and staff are in the middle of a month-long effort to raise awareness for the campaign, its cause and the idea that a community that discusses and explores the issue of sexual and domestic assault is one that has the power to stop it.
Earlier this week, students participated in Green Dot Bingo, where they learned how to be active bystanders in violent or potentially violent situations. Students also decorated t-shirts for the clothesline project, which allowed them to share the stories and emotions brought about by acts of domestic violence.
Other events scheduled throughout the month include “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” on Monday, April 13, a self-defense course in the Baisi gym on Monday, April 20, and an expressive arts therapy night in the WVU Tech Ballroom on Thursday, April 30.
Each activity is designed to open up communication and empower attendees to think critically about how they can change the statistics that make up campus sexual assault – statistics like 1 in 5 (the number of women sexually assaulted in college) or 1 in 16 (the number of men sexually assaulted in college).
“The takeaway, I think, can be summed up in the saying, ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ It’s on us to be the change. It’s on us to put an end to this violence,” said McDowall.
“This campaign benefits the campus community by starting conversations about these topics that tend to be difficult to talk about,” said WVU Tech Resident Director Emily Sands.
“But it does more than start the conversations. It raises awareness and encourages students to help in a situation. It provides insight into just how many people can be affected by sexual assault and domestic violence,” she said.
Sands said that the WVU Tech community has a number of local resources for help with sexual, domestic or gender-based violence situations, including WVU Tech Counseling Services, the Women’s Resource Center and the YWCA Charleston. Students may also go to fris.org for more information and resources.