The Student Government Association focused this week to help prevent sexual assault and violence on campus.
Two years ago, the SGA changed the name of their sexual assault prevention campaign from “Not on My Campus” to “It’s on Us.” The goal of nation-wide prevention initiative is to empower people to understand it’s on every single person to stop sexual assault and empower victims, according to Student Body Vice President of Operations Abbey Widick.
“The heartbreaking truth is it is on our campus and it’s on college campuses around the nation,” Widick said. “The ‘Not on My Campus’ message implies that it’s not a problem here and that we are above that. That’s an unfair message. This social awareness campaign sets the culture that sexual violence is absolutely not tolerated on our campus.”
SGA received scrutiny from sexual assault survivors with the “Not on My Campus” initiative, Widick said.
In order to increase campus involvement, SGA created a full “It’s on Us” week to combat sexual assault.
The events began Monday with a banner signing at the Brown-Lupton University Union.
Students walking to Market Square for lunch were greeted by Widick and fellow SGA members, smiling from ear to ear and asking students to sign a banner.
Many students also wrote the three simple words, “It’s on Us,” on their hands to support victims of sexual violence which were shared through the SGA’s Facebook Page.
More than 800 students signed the banner.
Widick introduced the initiative along with Kat Nestor, director of sexual assault prevention and awareness. As director, Nestor is in charge of coordinating the events that occur throughout the week. Nestor also serves as a resource for victims.
For Widick, going forward with the initiative was a no-brainer.
“Any issue that prevents someone from having the full TCU experience needs to be addressed,” Widick said. “Whether that’s struggling with mental health or a sexual assault that they had in the past. It’s an incredible opportunity to establish the culture that sexual assault is not allowed in any way here and to help empower victims that they matter and their story matters.”
Nestor said she wanted to go forward with “It’s on Us” this semester from hearing the stories of many victims across campus.
“It’s not an easy thing to do,” Nestor said. “Especially on TCU’s campus which is so dominated by social culture. It’s all about fitting in and having a lot of friends. I think people are afraid to be vulnerable, so when people are vulnerable in a community like this it speaks even louder volumes.”
According to the nation-wide “It’s On Us” data, 11 percent of all students experience rape or sexual assault during college. However, only six percent of college student body presidents believe that rape is a problem on their campus, according to FiveThirtyEight.
“Those are heartstopping statistics,” Widick said. “This is something we need to actively address and the first step to improving something is realizing and recognizing it’s a problem.”
Widick said there are two different facets of outreach: movement and bystander intervention training.
The movement aspect happened by taking pictures and SGA hosted a bystander intervention training dinner Tuesday night to teach tips to listen, believe and support victims. Wednesday night featured a men’s sex and healthy relationships workshop.
The events ended Friday with a keynote presentation on relationship violence by TCU’s Title IX Victim Advocate Leah Carnahan.
A senior communications studies major and sexual assault survivor, who asked her name not be used, is grateful the university acknowledges the issue of sexual assault but wishes the university took greater steps.
“They should do more than post about it on social media,” she said. “I think they should remind students about the issue once every month. It wouldn’t be too difficult and people may become more passionate about it.”
She also suggested that all students should attend a mandatory meeting on sexual assault prevention. By forcing the idea onto students for one week only and forgetting about it for the rest of the school year not a lot of progress is made, she added.
Two other schools in the Big 12 conference are involved with “It’s on Us:” The University of Texas and West Virginia University.
Nestor said that TCU’s version stemmed from both schools.
“Last year was the pilot year for ‘It’s on Us,'” Nestor said. “There were logistical things we needed to figure out. People weren’t completely sure what it was but this year we’ve been able to talk to a lot of other schools.”
Widick said she was proud of the student body by the way they took part in the campaign.
“I have felt very grateful for the way this community has approached this from trying to do everything they can to stop the problem,” Widick said. “I would love to keep this momentum going to be powerful bystanders against sexual assault.”
Nestor and Widick had one goal for this week: placing the power in the survivor’s hands.
“If we can help one person feel that they’re not alone and that their community believes them, then we’ve done our job,” Nestor said. “It would be great to have more than one person, but we should let people know that this is a community where they’re safe to share, encouraged to get help and will not be judged if they don’t choose to proceed with legal action.”