This story originally appeared in our summer magazine, an annual publication that features engaging pieces on issues affecting young people.
Students are stepping up to fight campus sexual assault, organizing over 600 events in 48 states during the 2014-2015 school year. We asked Kishla Conner of Old Dominion University, Dakota Inman, a student-athlete at SUNY Oneonta, and Christina Berardi of Miami University Ohio what It’s On Us means to them.
What events did you host on campus this year?
KISHLA: Old Dominion hosted a Dine and Donate benefit, which encouraged students, faculty, and staff to take an active role in preventing sexual assault in our community. The highlight of the event was a screening of the documentary It Happened Here. We also hosted a Campus Kickback, which celebrated the 1,500 students who signed the It’s On Us pledge, and a Greek Step Show where the Greek community came together as one to take the pledge.
DAKOTA: I was a Resident Advisor in one of SUNY Oneonta’s First Year Experience (FYE) buildings. I sought out two forms of action—a promotional video featuring Resident Advisors and a week- long pledge drive in the FYE buildings.
CHRISTINA: This year I hosted a Night of Unawareness, a student-led conversation and art gallery centered around the taboo of sexual violence on college campuses. With the goal of changing the discussion from “it doesn’t happen here” to “what can we do to change this,” the Night of Unawareness was a safe place to discuss the undiscussed.
Have you seen a culture shift on your campus since the It’s On Us campaign launch?
KISHLA: We have been able to reach students all over the university community with our events. As a result, students are more aware of how widespread the issues are and now feel empowered to take the initiative to make change.
DAKOTA: Our goal is for our peers to recognize that our community is full of good people and good leaders that will not stand for sexual assault, a monstrous issue on college campuses nationwide, and that their actions as individuals can collectively enact culture change. We want our peers to know that they can be part of the change.
CHRISTINA: I have seen first hand the power of a conversation and I have seen that through It’s On Us so I absolutely would say that it has sparked a cultural shift on Miami’s campus.
What’s been your favorite part about being an It’s On Us organizer?
KISHLA: My favorite part of the campaign has been educating students on safety and prevention of sexual assault on college campuses. As a student leader on campus, I hope my efforts inspire other students to become involved.
CHRISTINA: I had no idea the impact that I could have made at the start of my research. Leading the discussion at the Night of Unawareness was one of the most memorable and powerful moments of my life. There was so clearly a need for this discussion and it was so organic that I had students afterward come up to me saying, “after your discussion I went home and talked to my roommates” or “I talked to other classmates and it really changed the way we viewed sexual violence.”
Why does It’s On Us matter to you?
KISHLA: The campaign highlights the responsibility we all have in society to make change. It stresses how valuable students, faculty, and staff all are in supporting victims and educating each other.
DAKOTA: I was empowered to get involved after watching an It’s On Us video that our athletic department had posted. In the days following, I was disappointed to hear my peers laughing at some of the athletes in the video. Being an athlete myself, I was upset at the conversations within the student body and felt I could use my platform as a Resident Advisor to strengthen the campaign and empower my peers.
CHRISTINA: I happened to mention to a very close friend of mine how cool I thought the program would be and how I would love to get involved. That friend later disclosed to me that they had been sexually assaulted and felt that no one would care or that no one would believe them so they hadn’t said anything. Because I had voiced how important I felt It’s On Us was going to be they felt it was a safer environment to come out and say something about their own experience. Seeing how just mentioning the possibility of being involved in something like It’s On Us helped a close friend I wanted to get much, much more involved, which is what I did.
In September 2014, Generation Progress, in partnership with The White House, launched It’s On Us, a campaign to change the culture around campus sexual assault. Take the pledge to stop campus sexual assault at itsonus.org.