It’s On Us Campaign brings sexual assault prevention to BYU

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Emily LaFleur, public health major and BYU student, signed a pledge as a part of the campaign to end sexual assault on campuses. The Its on Us campaign held a booth in the Wilkinson Student Center this week. (Theresa Davis)

BYU was one of the many college campuses across the nation that participated in the It’s On Us Week of Action during the week of Nov. 9 to Nov. 13. It’s On Us is a national campaign started by the White House in September 2014 that encourages students to take responsibility in stopping sexual assault.

It’s On Us has published videos with celebrities including Zoe Saldana, Jon Hamm, Josh Hutcherson, Minka Kelly, Kerry Washington, Kevin Love and Randy Jackson, encouraging students to take the pledge to prevent crimes of sexual violence.

BYU participated in the It’s On Us Week of Action to educate the campus community about ways to prevent and report sexual assault. The campaign was organized and sponsored by the Title IX office and BYU Women’s Services and Resources.

Sarah Westerberg, BYU’s Title IX coordinator and the associate dean of students, discussed BYU’s role in the national campaign.

“BYU’s participation in It’s On Us is a part of our efforts to prevent the reoccurrence of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking in our campus community,” Westerberg said.

She said BYU’s campaign was created to help students know how to report an incidence of sexual violence, and to offer support and resources for victims of sexual assault.

Westerberg said she knows the subject of sexual assault is a sensitive one, but the campaign has received positive feedback on campus.

“Multiple students have approached us and mentioned that they or someone they knew were victims of abuse or violence,” Westerberg said. “These students want to take the pledge and raise awareness.”

Students visited the It’s On Us booth in the Wilkinson Student Center all week to take a pledge to do their part in preventing sexual assault. Students who pledged received a t-shirt that reads “It’s On Us Cougars.”

“People often think that this sort of thing is someone else’s business that they shouldn’t intrude upon,” Westerberg said. “But we’re all BYU Cougars, and it’s our collective responsibility to report these crimes and prevent them from happening again.”

Director of BYU Women’s Services and Resources Tiffany Turley elaborated on the campaign’s efforts to counter what is called the bystander effect.

“The bystander effect is essentially choosing not to do something because you think someone else will,” Turley said. “We’re trying to negate the bystander effect by encouraging people to be aware of and take proper action against sexual assault crimes.”

Turley explained how the It’s On Us campaign can have a greater impact on students at the college level.

“This event gets students to break the habit of putting this issue on other people,” Turley said. “A predominant attitude is ‘It’s never happened to me or anyone I know.’ But this event recognizes the responsibility on all of us to deal with this issue.”

Students wore teal ribbons on Thursday as part of the campaign to show support for victims of sexual assault.

Students can access sexual assault prevention training at BYU’s Title IX website in addition to the resources offered at the It’s On Us booth. The training provides definitions of consent, instructions on how to be an engaged bystander and resources for victims of sexual assault.

Turley said she hopes It’s On Us will be an annual event at BYU. The director of Women’s Services also mentioned that the Voices of Courage campaign, which will happen in January of 2016, is another campus effort to address the topic of sexual assault.

“We’re grateful for those individuals who are willing to stand up and be a voice of courage to stop sexual assault,” Turley said.

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