By: Samantha Franks, Student Advisory Committee
In the past two years, sexual assault prevention became ubiquitous.
In part, we can thank the White House. In September of 2014, President Obama and Vice President Biden launched the It’s On Us initiative, born out of the bold — if not simple — idea that preventing sexual assault on college campuses takes every kind of person making a personal commitment to stop the violence.
That initiative mobilized a national movement to end assault. It’s On Us has shown up at NCAA tournaments and even the Academy Awards. Hundreds of colleges and universities, countless celebrities, and many companies have publicly dedicated themselves to the cause.
The work, though, is more than glamorous commercials and big names. It is comprised largely of college students. These are people who juggle midterms with new AAU reports and trade Friday night parties for planning programming. Across the country, there are thousands of these students, Millenials ready to stand against violence.
That’s because sexual assault is painfully prevalent on college campuses. Attending university means that you will know assault survivors. In this environment, students step up because it means helping their friends, their family, and sometimes themselves.
I am one of those students, and yet I am still, in so many ways, a typical 21-year-old. I served on my college student government’s executive board and was honored to be a member of our homecoming court. I attend football games and own too many pairs of leggings. I worship Leslie Knope and I know the lyrics to an astounding number of Beyonce songs.
More importantly, though, rape haunts me. I see it everywhere. It shows up in my poetry classes and my political science seminars. It materializes in my favorite movies and books and clings to the hum of the radio. With every new commercial for Game of Thrones, I wonder how it is possible that other people are not so drastically affected.
Last year, I was selected to become a member of the It’s On Us Student Advisory Committee, comprised of 16 students across the country. Through It’s On Us, I have met over a dozen other students who wonder the same thing. Assault prevention dominates much of our lives. We recite Title IX regulations like Top 40 hits. We know about the scandals on other college campuses and always have a statistic ready to go. We know what we are up against.
You may think assault prevention is overwhelming. This week as students and citizens across the country rally to prevent assault as part of the It’s On Us Week of Action, we’re here to help parse it down. We know the work is hard; there are enough statistics to fill a book and enough stories to drown in. Really, though, this all you need:
Too many women and men are getting hurt on our campuses, and too much of our culture still accepts this reality as inevitable. There are incredible advocates on every campus in this country and It’s On Us seeks to connect us – and in so many ways, this effort is succeeding.
It has given students a national network. It has connected over 500 schools and hundreds of organizations. It has given us political legitimacy, and in doing so, amplified the voices of millions who may have thought their voices were stolen. As one of the incredible advocates on my campus says, no one has to do everything. Everyone, though, must do something.
We fight back because we have to. We fight back because this problem will not simply disappear. We fight back because if we don’t, who will?
It’s on us — all of us — to stop violence.
This week is the It’s On Us Week of Action — join the movement by taking the pledge at ItsOnUs.org. For more information about It’s On Us and the great work that students are doing on campus follow us @ItsOnUs