'It's On Us' campaign to prevent sexual assault comes to UP

By Dora Totoian | September 20, 2017 5:19pm
President and Co-founder of Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) Abby Sherman works with It's On Us to create a safer environment for students on campus.
Media Credit: Julia Cramer / The Beacon

It’s on Us, a national campaign to prevent sexual assault on college campuses, is coming to the University of Portland, spearheaded by campus organizer Abby Sherman, who is a senior organizational communication major and president of Students Against Sexual Assault, or SASA. 

The aim of It’s on Us is to change the way sexual assault is talked about on college campuses and to show that it falls on everyone to prevent it, according to Sherman and the campaign’s website. Sherman will work with a core team of five students she has selected to bring awareness to the issue at UP, organize events and encourage students to take the It’s on Us pledge.

It’s on Us was created in September 2014 based on recommendations by the Obama and Biden White House Task Force to Prevent Sexual Assault, according to the campaign’s website. The White House also explained in a fact sheet about the event’s launch that a goal of the campaign is to inspire everyone to see sexual assault prevention as their responsibility. Between campus organizers and their core teams, over 1,000 students nationwide work on the campaign, Sherman said. 

“Given the amount of dialogue we’ve seen increase on our campus...It’s on Us is the next necessary step for SASA and for this university,” Sherman said. 

Tiger Simpson, the advisor for SASA, views It’s on Us as a campaign that fits with another UP program aimed at violence prevention, Green Dot. 

“To me, It’s on Us and signing up for It’s on Us is an example of a Green Dot,” Simpson said. “It’s taking another stand and bringing more effort to saying, ‘Sexual assault is not ok here.” 

White House Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’ recent announcement about upcoming changes to Title IX have left campus communities all across the country confused, and UP is no exception. Many Pilots are wondering about the future of Title IX as it pertains to sexual assault. 

UP Title IX coordinator Lauretta Frederking wrote in an email to The Beacon that “if the Department of Education introduces regulation changes, then definitely we will ensure that our policies, practices and procedures comply with current federal regulations.” 

Despite potential changes nationally, Frederking said that students need to take care of each other.

“Everyone needs to speak up and step up to make sure that we protect others, and especially during those times and places when students are most vulnerable,” Frederking said.

For Sherman, changing the dialogue around sexual assault means recognizing that it has long been considered a private issue. It’s on Us centers on facilitating such honest dialogue, raising awareness and educating people, and promoting consent, Sherman said. 

Sherman encourages students to follow It’s on Us on social media and contact SASA at sasa@up.edu  if they would like to know more or participate in the program. Most important though, she said, is to attend It’s on Us events and help create open dialogue about sexual assault prevention.

“Representation in numbers speaks so many volumes, so I can’t stress enough that participation is key,” Sherman said. “Knowing that it’s an issue is one thing, but standing up and showing up speaks so many more volumes.” 

She also implored students not to detach themselves from the issue, even if they are not personally affected by sexual assault or think they don’t know anybody who is. 

“An assault affects an entire campus,” Sherman said. “It affects everyone whether you like to think about it or not.”