President Barack Obama took the pledge. Roosevelt University President Chuck Middleton took the pledge. Now we hope you will.
It’s On Us Week begins today at Roosevelt. This social media campaign asks every person on campus to do their part to stop sexual assault.
To participate, visit itsonus.org and sign your name, indicating that you will do what you can to make campus a safe and respectful place for all people. There’s also the option to make your profile photo into an It’s On Us logo, which we encourage everyone to do as a symbol of Roosevelt’s commitment.
One of the first Rooseveltians to sign the pledge was President Chuck Middleton, who had this to say:
“Roosevelt is taking action to create social change and to build a community free of sexual misconduct and discrimination. I have taken the pledge to be part of the solution to stop sexual assault on campus. I invite all members of the Roosevelt community to do the same at itsonus.org. For it truly is on us, each one of us, to uphold our values and ensure a safe and respectful environment for working and learning.”
Encouraged by the federal government, universities across the country have spent the last few years overhauling their sexual assault prevention and response strategies. We’re working hard on this issue at Roosevelt.
In fall of 2013, Roosevelt formed the Sexual Respect Committee, composed of students, faculty and staff, to review and revise our sexual misconduct policy. Last summer, a “street team” of committee members began a series of training sessions for students and employees. All students who go through orientation are now trained in ways to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct, as well as strategies for building healthy relationships and a culture of respect. Employees are being trained as well, particularly when it comes to helping students who come to them for help.
“We want people to know their options and know they’re not alone in this,” said Bridget Collier, Title IX coordinator and committee head. “There are people to help respond to their needs. We’re building a culture of caring and awareness.”
That kind of support is critical, said Kaitlin Vens (BA in psychology, ’14), a graduate of the Honors Program. Vens said she was sexually assaulted by friends as a freshman, but didn’t understand until later that what had happened was unacceptable because she didn’t consent.
“When something happens to you and it’s an acquaintance or a friend, it’s really hard to process that they could do something like that,” she said. Vens didn’t report the assault, but she gradually became more involved with the issue and ended up joining the Sexual Respect Committee.
“I never thought, ‘I’m going to become an advocate.’ It just kind of started happening,” she said. And over the past four years, she has shared her story with everyone she can. “It’s not something I’m ashamed of, and it’s not something I should be ashamed of. The people who did it should be ashamed. By talking about it, that’s how you create change.”
During an independent study with Collier and Ann Brigham, associate professor of English and women’s and gender studies, Vens developed training materials on the importance of providing trigger warnings to people in training, in case any of them have been assaulted. Collier plans to use the materials in future student orientations.
“It’s not something I’m ashamed of, and it’s not something I should be ashamed of. The people who did it should be ashamed. By talking about it, that’s how you create change.”
“I learned so much and I was so happy with the result,” said Vens, who plans to attend graduate school and eventually work as a therapist for LGBT clients. “It was really healing.”
All this week, you can visit this blog each day to read more personal perspectives on this issue and resources for our community.
Tuesday: Marjorie Jolles, associate professor of women’s and gender studies, on why telling women how to steer clear of assault is problematic
Wednesday: Mary Grigar, a therapist in the Counseling Center, talks about how to find help if you or a friend is assaulted
Thursday: Mike Cassidy, athletic director, gives his perspective on why he has to be involved in this fight
Friday: Student Anthony Paglia issues a challenge to all men, including the vast majority who don’t assault others