‘It’s On Us’ (to stop sexual assault)

In September 2014, the White House launched the It’s On Us initiative, an awareness campaign aimed at ending sexual assault on college campuses. While the initiative includes policies and support systems designed to help universities understand their legal obligations to prevent and respond to sexual assault, a large focus is on educating students about their important role as bystanders in preventing sexual assault and rape.

The Associated Students of the University of Utah have taken this responsibility seriously. On Jan. 24, all compensated student leaders were required to attend a half-day training session about bystander intervention that was facilitated by the U’s Center for Student Wellness. The training covered the basics of bystander intervention practices and skills, including situations of dating violence, stalking, sexual assault and sexual harassment. The workshop is available to any student group on campus by contacting the Center for Student Wellness at 801-581-7776 or wellness@sa.utah.edu.

“The It’s on Us campaign informs students that sexual assault doesn’t have to happen to our friends and encourages us to step in and be part of the solution – we all need to step in and stand up,” said Justin Spangler, ASUU president. “Sexual assault is making its way to the forefront of many conversations, and the more we talk about it and become familiar with ways to prevent it, the easier it’s going to be to change.”

Part of this process is helping victims feel more comfortable reporting sexual assaults. To help the campus community, and particularly students, understand the process for reporting sexual assault, ASUU is hosting a panel discussion this Wednesday, Feb. 11, 3-4 p.m. in the Union’s Saltair room. Panelists include Katie Stiel, program manager for the Center for Student Wellness; Lori McDonald, dean of students; Jodi Petersen, sexual assault support advocate at the U; and Krista Pickens director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action and the U’s Title IX coordinator.

These offices work together to educate all employees and students about the policies surrounding sexual harassment. Together, they provide trainings at new student orientations, for the university’s athletics teams, and with sororities and fraternities, faculty and staff and other groups, such as students who are being placed in internships. A web-based training is in development, which will make the information more accessible to all members of the campus community.

These trainings provide education about the impact individuals can have when they safely confront concerning or disturbing behavior. The training also provides an overview of the work the university does to ensure a safe, clear, transparent and effective process for reporting and addressing sexual misconduct.

“Through these efforts, combined with the tremendous student energy and interest for a better climate of respect that truly reflects equality, I think we really can make a significant and lasting impact in reducing sexual violence and harassment,” Pickens said.

A series of national public service announcements were created as part of the national It’s on Us campaign. The videos focus on bystander intervention and the message that everyone is responsible for preventing sexual assaults. ASUU recently revealed its own It’s on Us PSA for the U community. Featuring U students and student athletes, the 60-second video calls on students to respect each other and keep each other safe. All are encouraged to take the national pledge to keep women and men safe from sexual assault.