by Arianna Lower and Emily Costantino

I PLEDGE:

To RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault.

To IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur.

To INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.

To CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

I, Emily Costantino, agreed to take this pledge because of how careful women have to be in today’s generation and society. Currently, the statistics that It’s On Us provides is that 1 in 5 college women are sexually assaulted. As a female college student this number is not only eye opening but scary and puts myself along with friends and fellow classmates at risk. This is a movement that can help decrease those numbers for our daughters and the generations of the future.

Being a college female student, I, Arianna Lower, find the statistics on college sexual assault and rape staggering. I know many people on campus who have been affected by this epidemic. In this past year, I have taken up interest in finding out how we can prevent these attacks. I think it’s important to get the conversation on sexual assault started to break down the stigma of talking about it. The hardest thing about getting the conversation started on campuses is that in four years, there is a new set of people on campus and the conversation gets forgotten about. We need advocates throughout the college system to fuel the conversation for years to come.

On September 19, 2014 Barack Obama and the White House Council on Women and Girls started this social movement with intent of ending sexual assault on college campuses for both men and women all throughout the United States. This association encourages people of all communities to be aware of how often sexual assault is committed and inspires them to take a stand to be an active character in this solution. This campaign focuses on the men and women from college campuses to local government community leaders who can do something about sexual assault because the attacks are only increasing. Over 500 colleges take part on the It’s On Us movement with over 1,800 events taking place in 49 states. It’s On Us has famous supporters like Joe Biden and Lady Gaga who have publically recognized the campaign for being respectable throughout the nation.

This movement has developed videos with many famous people and organizations that stand by the It’s On Us campaign and posted them to YouTube to make people more aware of what is happening. These videos can be watched and shared followed by the #itsonus hash tag used on social media. You too can be part of this organization and help take a stand in sexual violence.

It may be hard to get involved in a movement when you don’t fully understand the situation behind it. Because of this, some people pass over their chance to get involved. For the It’s On Us movement, there is an hour and 43 minute film that introduces the devastating situation; it’s called The Hunting Ground. This film follows over 15 students who reported rapes to their administrators, who pleas for help were then ignored. Throughout the film, statistics and studies (with their citations underneath) are shown to backup what is being said. The most staggering part of the film shows universities with their statistics on sexual assaults and the resulting punishments:

Harvard University (2009-2013): 135 reported sexual assaults; 10 reported suspensions

UC Berkley (2008-2013): 78 reported sexual assaults; 3 expulsions

Dartmouth College (2002-2013): 155 reported sexual assaults; 3 expulsions

Stanford University (1996-2013): 259 reported sexual assaults; 1 expulsion

UNC (2001-2013): 136 reported sexual assaults; 0 expulsions

University of Virginia (1998-2013): 205 reported sexual assaults; 0 expulsions (for sexual assault); 183 expulsions for cheating and other honor board violations

(The Hunting Ground Film).

In 2012, 45% of colleges reported zero sexual assaults. Colleges want to protect their image for perspective students and their parents. Rape accusations can harm a university’s reputation. Universities have a financial incentive to hide sexual assaults. No student wants to go and no parent wants to send their student to a university known for sexual assault or rape. With all this being said, not all men on college campuses commit sexual assault. It’s less than 8% of these men that commit more than 90% of sexual assaults. Also, repeat offenders commit an average of six or more acts of sexual assault. We need university employees to step up and protect those affected by this epidemic.

Miss Representation is a film that shows the degrading statistics that women are forced to deal with on a daily basis. It displays how the media on the TV and Internet is driving males to see women as all beauty and no brains. Because of this, females have eating disorders, cut themselves, or have major surgeries in order to be accepted to the public. This representation could have an effect on sexual violence throughout the United States. It’s On Us movement could overall begin to make the community more mindful to females and how they are more to society than just looks.

Warsan Shire, a poet and activist, uses her stories to explain how it feels to be put in a tough situation. Her poetry give a voice to those struggle to find their own. Sexual assault and rape feature prominently in her book, Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth. Shire pulls the conversation of something no one wants to talk about into a mode that can easily fuel discussion. Reading Warsan Shire on campus or encouraging others to write about their experiences can further the point that the It’s On Us movement is trying to reach.

Sexual assault and rape can be an extremely difficult topic to breach, especially on college campuses. The It’s On Us movement is a start in the proper direction. We need conversation to happen on campuses to ensure the amount of people affected drops. The statistics are everywhere and they are disconcerting. The It’s On Us movement has an active website that works to inform everyone. Check out the website and take the pledge yourself! Help in the conversation to stop sexual assault on college campuses.

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