It’s On Us: Everyone Can Play a Part in Eliminating Sexual Assault on Campuses. Here’s How.

By: Randi Teplitz, Chair of the Pennsylvania Commission for Women and Professor of Legal Studies at Central Penn College

September 07, 2016

Pennsylvania is the proud home to some of the very best institutions of higher education in the United States. This fall, students are returning to these campuses with high hopes and dreams of prosperous futures.

However, in addition to students being academically enriched, it is important for students to be educated on the realities of sexual violence and the best practices for prevention. The harsh statistics show that approximately one in five women and one in sixteen men will be sexually assaulted while in college.

In January 2016, Governor Wolf implemented “It’s On Us PA,” a prevention education program that also emphasizes bystander intervention. We want our students to be safe and “It’s On Us,” all of us, to be aware, engaged and responsive to this problem.

As a student, awareness is key to prevention. Here are some ways in which you can do that:

  • Practice active consent.

    The old adage, “no means no,” is no longer applicable. It is time to shift the paradigm to “yes means yes.” Past consent is not a substitute for current consent.

  • Engage in healthy relationships.

    Healthy relationships are based on mutual respect, trust, and communication. If you do not feel respected or valued in your relationship, move on—a better partner is out there.

  • Refrain from excessive alcohol and drug use.

    According to the U.S. Department of Justice, National Crime Victimization Study, 75 percent of acquaintance rapes involved alcohol or drug use. Alcohol and drugs reduce inhibitions and may negate consent. Know your limits and do not leave your drinks unattended. While drugs and alcohol are not the cause of campus rape, it is a common factor in many of these crimes. However, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, does not render permission to rape or be raped.

  • Be an advocate.

    Whether you are advocating for yourself, a friend or just women in general, students often do not realize the power of their voices. Colleges have the obligation to provide sexual assault awareness programs and to ensure that their campus is not a hostile environment for its students. Colleges should also have support services in place to assist students who are in need. Student advocacy is often the catalyst for change on college campuses. For information related to student advocacy and how you can make positive change on your campus, visit www.endrapeoncampus.org.

  • Help is available.

    There is a rape crisis center that services all 67 counties in Pennsylvania. They offer free crisis counseling 24 hours a day. Call 1-888-772-7227 to locate the rape crisis center in your county.

As a society, we need to be vocally intolerant of crimes of sexual violence. Only when we openly abhor such behavior will it be curtailed. Here are some ways in which we can do that:

  • Intervene.

    Bystander intervention is crucial. Intervention takes place at all levels—pre, during, and post assault. Don’t look the other way—be good friend and Samaritan.

  • Believe and respect the victim and her choices.

    False reports of rape are statistically low. When we perpetuate rape myths and stereotypes, we create an intolerance and unwillingness to report or hold rapists accountable.

  • Take the “It’s On Us” pledge.

    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; and to CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported. You can take the pledge on Governor Wolf’s website here.

Please join with Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Commission for Women in making a personal commitment to being part of the solution that keeps Pennsylvania students safe on our college campuses. We are proud of our students and wish them a positive, healthy, and successful school year.

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