Student Senate reboots ‘It’s On Us’ campaign to end sexual assault on campus

Posted September 29, 2015

With the “It’s On Us” campaign going into its second year nationally as well as in UW-River Falls, Student Senate is determined to re-launch the conversation on sexual assault.

The “It’s On Us” campaign, launched by President Barack Obama in September 2014, is a national awareness campaign to help end sexual assault on college campuses. 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,” according to a White House press release.

The campaign pledge calls for students to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault, identify situations in which sexual assault may occur, intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given, and create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported, according to the “It’s On Us” website.

Senate brought the “It’s On Us” campaign to UWRF in October 2014 with a panel discussion during the fall semester and an “It’s On Us” Bingo night during spring semester.

When it comes to plans for the “It’s On Us” campaign for the new academic year, Student Senate President Christopher Morgan said that Senate is starting from square one and is really focused on having events throughout the year and keeping the conversation going.

One idea, explained Morgan, is a table campaign in the University Center with information from Counseling Services and other resources that deals with the issue of sexual assault. With the table campaign, Senate is planning on a visual aid to illustrate to students how often sexual assault occurs on college campuses.

“Every minute and a half, we’ll have a monitor that ticks up with the number as well as a sound, like a beep, that will go off as students move throughout the UC throughout the day,” Morgan said. “So they don’t really need to approach the desk to get the message, it’s kind of a message that they can get as they walk by to convey how big of an issue this actually is on our campus as well as throughout the country.”

Senate is planning on teaming up with several organizations, including Counseling Services, the Resident Hall Association, Turning Point, the Student Feminist Organization, Active Minds, and the St. Croix Valley Sexual Assault Response Team (SART).

Brooke Marlow, client services advocate for SART, said the organization originally reached out to Senate to become a part of the “It’s On Us” campaign, and will be partnering with Senate for different events throughout the year.

Marlow explained that “It’s On Us” is a great campaign when it comes to bystander intervention and creating a good atmosphere on campus by allowing everyone to come together to fight sexual assault.

“It’s not possible for us to fight it by ourselves,” Marlow said. “We need community members, students, faculty, admin(istration) to all combat it. And that’s what the ‘It’s On Us’ campaign is all about — coming together.”

According to the UW-River Falls Campus Security and Fire Safety Report, UWRF had no reported sexual assaults in 2013, the most recent date available, and one reported sexual assault in 2012. In River Falls, there were nine reported sexual assaults in 2013 and four in 2012, according to the River Falls Police Department.

However, Marlow said that the number of reported sexual assaults does not accurately reflect what is going on in the community, because many victims feel as though they cannot come forward for a variety of reasons. She explained that this is why the “It’s On Us” campaign will have a positive impact on campus.

“I feel like showing this kind of community approach and this comradery between faculty, administration and students, it’s huge, and it will help people not only feel safe, but comforted and supported,” Marlow said.

Alice Reilly-Myklebust, director of Student Health and Counseling Services at UWRF, said that she believes that the university is doing all it can to end sexual assault on campus, adding that ending sexual assault is not an easy task.

“All of us are doing our best to help our students,” Reilly-Myklebust said.

Morgan explained that one important aspect when it comes to planning the “It’s On Us” events is making sure that students don’t feel as though they are in a lecture.

“In order to successfully reach out to students, on any issue, you really need to know who your students are, what they like,” he said. “So how we get the conversation going is we hold events that, number one have a good message behind them, but also are exciting to go to, that you feel like the community is coming together and talking about something.”

When it comes to how the success of the campaign will be monitored throughout the year, Morgan said that one major benchmark for Senate is to make the issue of sexual assault more important to UWRF administration, as well as making it an issue that students talk about.

“At the end of this year,” he said, “if I look back on what we’ve done and we’ve been able to push our administration to make this a bigger issue, if we’ve held events where students walk away saying, ‘Wow, I want to get involved, I want to help out with this,’ then I’ll call that a successful year.”