A new club that is meant to create a cultural shift in the way people think about, talk about and act towards sexual assault has begun to establish roots at Stevenson.
The “It’s On Us” club is an education-based campaign that began on a national level by the White House. The primary purpose of the campaign is to raise public awareness about sexual assault and educate students in preventing sexual violence. Proponents seek to frame sexual assault in a way that inspires everyone to see it as their own personal responsibility to do something to prevent it.
When launching the It’s On Us initiative, President Barack Obama stated in his speech that it was “For anybody whose once-normal, everyday life was suddenly shattered by an act of sexual violence…” The Obama administration has taken further steps to put an end sexual assault by sending guidance to every school district, college and university that receives federal funding, The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault was created to work with colleges and universities on developing practices on how to respond and prevent sexual assault, and reviewing existing laws to make sure that they adequately protect victims of sexual assault.
Arwa Mahmoud Salhab, the club’s founder and leader stated, “My whole view is to educate the Stevenson community about sexual assault and different forms of it and what it all comes down to. At this point, we haven’t done a big event yet, but my goal is to have resources out for everyone, and to get involved if they do want to. Our main month is going to be April because that is sexual assault [awareness] month.”
According to the national It’s On Us campaign website, the members pledge 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. The website also states that one in five women, as well as one in 16 men, are sexually assaulted in college; at least 40 percent of survivors fear reprisal by their attacker; and only two percent of incapacitated rape survivors and 13 percent of rape survivors report their assault.
The first training session at Stevenson to build awareness of sexual assault processes will be held on Nov. 30 with TurnAround, Inc., an advocacy partner. Further advancements of the club will take place in the month of April, which is sexual assault awareness month. Additional events are planned after April which include a walk-a-mile event and a video to get people to begin a conversation on the topic.
“[The club’s purpose] is to combat sexual assault for students at the university. President Obama created it, so it’s a national thing, and I think it’s essential that we talk about what’s going on in this day and age, especially about sexual assault because that happens every day and everywhere,” said Salhab.
The It’s On Us club hopes to create a cultural shift by doing two things: first, establishing a sense of ownership over the problem and second, providing tips, tools and inspiration to empower everyone to make a difference every day.