‘It’s On Us PA’ Campaign to Combat Campus Sexual Assault Highlighted at White House Summit

January 05, 2017

Washington, D.C. – At a White House Summit on Thursday, Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera outlined the progress of the commonwealth’s year-old ‘It’s On Us PA’ campaign, aimed at combatting campus sexual assault.

“Over the past year, Pennsylvania has made great strides in improving public awareness and engaging key stakeholders in developing innovative strategies to combat sexual assault on the commonwealth’s campuses,” Governor Wolf said. “Launching the ‘It’s On Us PA’ campaign and working with our legislative partners to secure funding for ‘It’s on Us PA’ grants has brought this issue to the forefront and strengthened our state’s response to this issue.”

“The Wolf Administration and the Pennsylvania Department of Education appreciate the commitment of our allies across the commonwealth, although we understand that there is still much work to be done to build a support network,” Rivera added. “The ‘It’s On Us’ campaign is enabling campuses to change the narrative around sexual violence, educating communities and empowering survivors. I am proud of the work accomplished thus far and urge others to join us in support of this important campaign.”

The Wolf Administration launched ‘It’s On Us PA’ in January 2016 to enlist partners statewide in developing strategies to combat campus sexual assault, and the initiative builds on momentum from the national ‘It’s On Us’ campaign started in 2014 by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Pennsylvania was the first state to establish a state-level ‘It’s On Us’ campaign, with the specific goals of:

  1. Improving awareness, prevention, reporting, and response systems regarding sexual violence in schools, colleges and universities to better serve all students.
  2. Removing/reducing barriers that prevent survivors of sexual violence from reporting and/or accessing vital resources by creating a more consistent, empowering reporting process for student survivors of gender-based violence.
  3. Demonstrating significant, proactive, and sustainable leadership to change campus culture by challenging Pennsylvania’s education leaders – including college and university presidents, superintendents – as well as students, teachers, faculty, staff, families, and communities to pledge to improve their institutions’ climates.

In November, the Wolf Administration announced that 36 postsecondary institutions across the state – including community colleges, and independent and public 2- year and 4-year colleges and universities – were selected for ‘It’s On Us PA’ grants totaling nearly $1 million. Funding for the grants was secured by Governor Wolf, in collaboration with the legislature, in the 2016-17 state budget. Grantees will use the funding to implement strategies on their campuses to address goals of the campaign, and increase access to critical resources and support for students dealing with sexual assault.

Programs or activities considered for funding include campus-wide training for students, faculty and staff; institutional campaigns to raise awareness and understanding of the reporting process and resources available to and rights of sexual violence survivors; programs that enhance awareness of available resources and students’ rights or seek to increase mechanisms for anonymous reporting; and efforts to improve capacity to collect federal- or state-required data.

Over the past year, the ‘It’s On Us PA’ campaign has held a series of events across the state to boost awareness, advance its efforts, and garner public support including a rally at the University of Pittsburgh, a roundtable discussion at East Stroudsburg School District in in Monroe County, and a discussion with acclaimed author of Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Jon Krakauer, in Harrisburg.

At each event, participants are encouraged to take the ‘It’s On Us’ pledge, in which people pledge to:

  • Recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault.
  • Identify situations in which sexual assault may occur.
  • Intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.
  • Create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

To date, more than 1,000 Pennsylvanians have taken the pledge, including about 200 postsecondary and school district administrators.

For more information and to take the pledge, visit www.governor.pa.gov/its-on-us/.

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