Elizabethtown College site of governor’s statewide ‘It’s On Us’ campaign announcement
A year and a half ago, President Barack Obama, announced a national program focused on ending sexual assault on campuses across the nation. By bringing together colleges, universities, schools and communities the “It’s On Us” campaign aims to help recognize that non-consensual sex equals sexual assault.
This morning, Friday, Jan. 29, Elizabethtown College was the location of Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement that Pennsylvania has become the first state to dedicate itself to the initiative. “It’s On Us PA” is a statewide campaign that invites everyone to play a role in ending sexual assault by identifying situations in which sexual assault may occur; intervening in situations where consent has not or cannot be given; and creating an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.
Wolf called Pennsylvania “a shining example” for the future of the national campaign.
After an introduction by College President Carl Strikwerda, who called on all in the room to “reject the quiet tolerance” that seems to surround sexual crimes, and by national “It’s On Us” campaign manager Kristin Avery, who pointed out that one in five women and one in six men are sexually assaulted, Wolf declared a “crusade against sexual assaults.”
Introducing himself, lightheartedly as the husband of Frances, first lady of Pennsylvania, the governor spoke frankly to the audience of college and university presidents and administrators, school district representatives, state government legislators and regional media. Sexual assault, said the governor, is “pervasive in our society;” most survivors are assaulted by someone they know.
He focused on the greater problems that have their root in sexual assault: PTSD, depression, long-term health problems, suicide, alcohol abuse, school dropouts, lower GPAs. Based on the aforementioned issues, sexual assault can cost a survivor between $87,000 and $240,000 over a lifetime, according to U.S. government reports.
Wolf proclaimed the state’s need to be a leader in the campaign and thanked those government representatives in attendance for their support—Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education; Kevin Schreiber, state representative for the 95th legislative district; and Randi Teplitz, chair for The Pennsylvania Commission for Women.
The state campaign, the governor said, aims to improve awareness of prevention and reporting; reduce – “hopefully eliminate” – barriers for victims to report; demonstrate that we want to eradicate these crimes; and “treat this as the serious problem it truly is.”
He referred to the fallout of sexual assault as having a “corrosive effect” to the greater society.
Since the national “It’s On Us” campaign was launched, there have been 1,200 events on 500 campuses across the nation. Overall, 270,000 individuals have taken the pledge, thus far. Today, however, marked the first state to sign on with its own program.
Following the announcement, higher education, high school, government and organizational representatives gathered for a roundtable discussion about how they plan to handle the campaign initiative in their own institutions.
“Today, Governor Wolf sends a strong message to parents and students that sexual violence will not be tolerated, and the young women on Pennsylvania’s college campuses will be supported and cared for,” said Commission for Women Chair Teplitz.
Allison Bridgeman, Elizabethtown College associate dean of students and director of Residence Life shared with the panel the initiatives Elizabethtown College already has undertaken in conjunction with the campaign—using a version of the “It’s On Us” logo on the Student Wellness Twitter page to give visibility; producing banners and posters; challenging the faculty, staff and students to learn about sexual assault through interactive activities; and opportunities for students to take the pledge, publicly, via computer and video stations.
The pledge is a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault; it’s a personal promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be a part of the solution.
“We definitely see an increase in students talking about prevention,” Bridgeman said. “If they are talking about it, they are thinking about it.”
Here are a few tips from “It’s On Us” for how to be part of the solution.