According to the Not Alone organization’s, 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted while in college, most often happening in her freshman or sophomore year.
Many survivors are sexually abused while drugged, drunk, passed out or otherwise incapacitated; although fewer, college men are also victimized. The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault was established Jan. 22. The force has since implemented the following series of initial steps in their goal to:
• Identify the scope of the problem on college campuses
• Help prevent campus sexual assault
• Help schools respond effectively when a student is assaulted
• Improve, and make more transparent, the federal government’s enforcement efforts.
“Perhaps most important, we need to keep saying to anyone out there who has ever been assaulted: you are not alone. We have your back. I’ve got your back,” said President Barack Obama, Jan. 24.
The national Not Alone initiative serves as an antecedent to the launch of the “It’s On Us” public awareness campaign. This movement was launched by Obama and Biden on Sept. 19.
Stephen Cobb, assistant chief of staff for SGA, took part in a national conference call earlier in September with over 200 other college representatives to gain more information about “It’s On Us” and how to bring this initiative to The University of Southern Mississippi.
“I expect that we will be able to positively affect this campus and the student body. I have high expectations,” Cobb said.
According to the “It’s on Us” public service announcement video, “It’s on us to stop sexual assault, to get in the way before it happens, to get a friend home safe and to not blame the victim. It’s on us to look out for each other, to not look the other way. It’s on us to stand up, to step in (and) to take responsibility. It’s on us, all of us, to stop sexual assault.”
The SGA is working to figure out how to organize and promote this initiative in the Southern Miss community. Members of SGA are currently in the brainstorming process. Their goal is to get it started and get it started strong.
Cobb said to be prepared to see things coming between now and mid-November and expect to see information at tables set up in Shoemaker Square and ads
The purpose of the campaign is to change how sexual assault is viewed in our society. Cobb said “‘It’s On Us’ is a way of saying that we refuse to continue turning a blind eye to this problem and to encourage victims to speak out and seek justice for what happened to them.
“It’s on us to not just be a bystander,” Cobb said. “It’s about removing the stigma of sexual assault that occurs in our society. The movement is to break down all of those stereotypes and make reporting sexual assault a safer and more comfortable process for victims.”
Cobb said SGA wants to create a safer environment that avoids victim blaming and shaming.
National Week of Action for the campaign will take place Nov. 17 through 21. Eagle Appreciation day, Nov. 17, SGA plans to begin reaching out to students to sign the pledge during that day.
“If anyone has any questions or would like to talk to someone with SGA about this, there is always someone in our office,” Cobb said. “We are more than willing to educate and spread the words about this campaign.”
According to itsonus.org, this pledge is a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault. The campaign has already found support from various national and global leaders such as Bing, BET, EA Sports, Feminists Majority Foundation, MTV, NCAA, PAC 12, The United States Olympic Committee and many others.
“Myself, Jeffery George, president of SGA, and the rest of us at the SGA’s aim is to serve the students,” Cobb said. “Everything we do is for the students, including introducing this campaign. We look forward to making this a positive change for our school in leaving Southern Miss better than we found it.”
To take the pledge to stand up against sexual assault, visit itsonus.org