It's On Us
Year-Round Advocacy Group Comes Out Strong in April
It’s on us. That’s the refrain of a campaign launched by President Obama and Vice-President Biden in 2014, a campaign against one of the biggest elephants in a nationwide room: sexual violence on campus. What does it mean, though? What is on who?
Kelly McCarthy, Assistant Vice-President of Student Affairs and Director of the Counseling Center at Governors State University, spearheads Advocating for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), a campus group devoted to spreading year-round awareness and educating the public on advocacy and sexual violence prevention.
She said, “What that means is it’s on us to recognize what is and is not consensual sexual behavior. It’s on us to identify situations that could lead to sexual violence, to intervene when we see non-consensual interactions, and to create an environment that rejects rape culture and victim-blaming while supporting survivors.”
Statistically, one in five college women will be the victim of some form of sexual assault during her college career, and most of those assaults will go unreported. Additionally, men are victimized and even less likely to report the incidents, leaving them a silent minority in the conversation on sexual violence. Even though there is protection for these students under Title IX—which addresses sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, and sexual violence—these crimes often go unreported because victims feel embarrassed, or they don’t think they’ll be believed, or they might even fear retribution from their assailants. This is where campus groups such as ASAP come in.
Although the organization is most visible during April—running events like sidewalk chalking for advocacy, gender awareness activities, documentary screenings, and discussion forums—their most important work is done quietly, 365 days a year. In a partnership with the YWCA, ASAP provides confidential access to counseling and medical treatment to survivors and lights a safe path to help and recovery.
GSU celebrated the advocacy partnership’s anniversary this year with a free screening of a filmed panel that discussed sexual violence, this year’s installation in the Respond to Violence series by Yevette Brown, Associate Professor of the Division of Communication-Visual and Performing Arts.
“We partner across disciplines and with various groups on the topics’” Brown said. “This year we worked with GSU’s Sexual Assault Prevention team on the National It’s on Us Sexual Assault on College Campuses campaign.”
McCarthy said, “You can see when you watch it that sometimes it’s hard for people to talk about these issues, but all of the panel members wanted to do it, because it’s important that we start talking through that difficulty and discomfort.”
They also hosted a premiere of another media presentation, this one a public service announcement created for the university in the Division of Digital Learning and Media Design (DLMD). In it, a young woman staggers alone to a bus stop in the dark. She’s drunk. She drops her keys and eventually collapses on a bench. The clip ends with a voiceover directing viewers to take the pledge at ItsOnUs.org.
“Students are really grappling with this stuff,” McCarthy said, “and ASAP works year-round to provide them with the resources and support that they need.”