BLOG: Wolf Administration Launches #ItsOnUsPA Campaign

By: Governor Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf

January 29, 2016

Today, at Elizabethtown College, we joined Education Secretary Pedro Rivera, the PA Commission for Women, representatives from “It’s On Us” and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, numerous presidents from colleges across the state, and state representatives and senators to make an exciting announcement in our state’s fight against sexual assault.

We announced “It’s on Us PA” – the first statewide effort to address the crisis of campus sexual assault. This builds on the White House “It’s on Us” campaign.

The Initiative

We need to treat sexual assault in our schools and colleges as the serious problem it truly is. We need to agree that we’re not going to put up with it any longer. That’s why we are launching this initiative.

Together, we launched “It’s On Us PA.” Building off the momentum of the national “It’s On Us” movement launched by President Obama and Vice President Biden in 2014, “It’s On Us PA” will engage education leaders from school superintendents to college presidents as well as students, teachers, faculty, staff, civic leaders, families, and communities to make a personal and public pledge to play a role in preventing, addressing, and responding effectively to sexual violence.

With this announcement, Pennsylvania is the first state in the nation to launch an “It’s On Us” campaign. “It’s On Us PA” will be a statewide campaign that invites everyone to play a role in ending sexual assault.

The Plan

The goals of “It’s On Us PA” are to:

  1. Improve awareness, prevention, reporting, and response systems in schools, colleges and universities to better serve all students.
  2. Remove and reduce the barriers that prevent survivors from not only reporting their assaults but also accessing vital resources. This will be accomplished by creating a more consistent, empowering reporting process for student survivors of gender-based violence.
  3. Demonstrate significant, proactive, and sustainable leadership to change campus culture by challenging Pennsylvania’s education leaders – including college and university presidents and district superintendents – as well as students, teachers, faculty, staff, families, and communities to pledge to improve their institutions’ climate.

With today’s launch, we will kick off a year of action.

The Governor’s Office and the Pennsylvania Department of Education will hold roundtable discussions with leaders and community stakeholders over the next three months to develop a package of proposed legislation and recommendations to implement “It’s On Us PA” and to address the pressing issues of sexual assault in our schools, colleges and universities.

PDE will also launch a webinar series in the spring for schools, colleges and universities focused on best practices and existing legal requirements related to sexual violence, including Title IX, Jeanne Clery Act, and state law.

The Crisis

Pennsylvania’s greatest resource is the more than 2.5 million children and young adults enrolled in our schools and postsecondary institutions. We must ensure that every single student has an opportunity to live and learn in a safe, supportive environment that allows them to reach their full potential.

For too many of our young people, classrooms and campuses are not the safe havens they should be.

Sexual violence affects an estimated one in five college women and one in 20 college men. Nearly 20 percent of girls between the ages of 14 and 17 are sexually assaulted.

Sexual assault affects the health and well-being of students.  Sadly, sexual assault can also derail a student’s educational success. Survivors often struggle with long-term health issues, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse. They are more likely to earn lower grades or drop out of school altogether.

The impact of this violence extends beyond individuals to the entire community. Based on estimates from researchers, the lifetime costs in lowered educational attainment and lost productivity for adolescent girls experiencing sexual assault in Pennsylvania is a staggering $15.1 billion.

Let’s Get Started

When a person is sexually assaulted, it reflects – and often reinforces – a number of negative forces: it promotes a culture of unfairness and discrimination, feeds on the pernicious idea that some people have clearer rights than others, and builds an environment of fear among the community of friends, acquaintance, and neighbors who know of the survivor’s ordeal.

Safety is a fundamental civil right, and sexual assault is a clear violation of that civil right. When that violation occurs for any member of a community, it violates the right of everyone to a safe society. A society in which sexual assault is a big problem is a society in which the core values we claim to hold dear – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – are little more than empty ideals.

We need to end sexual assault.

We must recognize that this is a problem that demands leadership, courage, and action. We are proud to launch “It’s On Us PA.” Ensuring our students’ safety and well-being is paramount not only for their success, but the success of Pennsylvania as a whole.


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