This week is the first National Week of Action for the “It’s On Us” campaign. “It’s On Us” is a campaign that was launched by the White House and the Center for American Progress’ Generation Progress, an advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., this past September. This campaign was launched in order to fundamentally shift the way in which we think about sexual assault. It’s an opportunity to say, “not on our campus,” “not anymore” and build off the amazing momentum that has already been generated by groups such as #CarryThatWeight and I Will.

As President Barack Obama said when launching this campaign, “It’s on all of us to reject the quiet tolerance of sexual assault.” The goal of “It’s On Us” is to engage students across campuses in an effort to curb campus sexual assault and empower them to be part of the solution rather than passive bystanders to the problem. It calls on all of us to step up and pledge to create safe environments on our campus.

Generation Progress made contact and a coalition of student leaders was formed. Given the current campus climate and the ways in which issues surrounding sexual assault have been handled in the past, we believe many students are becoming disheartened by what they are seeing. Based on this, we chose to lead a series of inclusive roundtable discussions to come up with tangible policy solutions on how to continue to improve sexual assault prevention throughout our college careers. We also aimed to evaluate our responsibilities as individuals and as a community. In order to do this, the other student leaders and I felt it was best for this event to be removed from student organization affiliation and be a nonpartisan space where all students felt comfortable expressing their views and opinions.

Throughout the week, I came together with other campus leaders and a wide range of students. The student groups ranged from freshmen still exposed to first-year sexual assault prevention programming to law students who have limited exposure to our University’s programming or misconduct policy. During the roundtables, we broke off into small groups with student facilitators leading the discussion, and brainstormed ways in which the University can ensure each student has and knows what resources are available for students on campus. We also dialogued about what we as students can do to create an environment where sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported and empowered.

Many action items were generated, including broadening the traditional narratives regarding sexual assault. The conversation currently tends to revolve around assaults committed by strangers or assaults that occur at fraternity parties. Yet, studies have shown perpetrators of sexual assault are often friends or acquaintances of the person they are assaulting. This conversation also needs to expand to include individuals with varying identities, including: non-binary genders, sexual orientation, racial and ethnic minorities, ability status and religious affiliation. Our current conversations lack diversity and therefore inclusivity. We know that assaults affect already marginalized communities and many students often feel even more isolated and vulnerable after an assault. At the roundtables, we discussed University-sponsored annual sexual misconduct educational programming. The University has beneficial programs in place currently for freshmen, and expanding these programs would provide positive feedback as well as an opportunity for potential changes to increase their overall effectiveness.

It’s on us to start the conversation, but more importantly, it’s on our campus community to listen and act. These roundtables were the start to inclusive productive conversations, but by no means are they our end goal. Conversations and policy solutions should be collaborative between survivors, the student body and administrators. Our collaboration is needed to authentically address the needs of survivors while acting in effective, legal parameters. There are steps we need to take, and the planners, facilitators and many participants will be meeting in the coming weeks to determine various impactful student-led initiatives moving forward. In the meantime, we all must pledge to actively intervene when we think our friends are in danger. We pledge to take our peers’ and our own safety seriously. It’s on all of us to change the culture on campus and prevent sexual assault.

Laurel Ruza is a Public Policy senior.

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