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It’s On Cougs campaign calls for a community stand against sexual violence

As instances of sexual assault have grown in recent times on college campuses, the White House recently instigated the It’s On Us campaign. The campaign seeks to educate students and bring awareness to the problem of sexual violence in college settings. The central component of the campaign is to get participants to sign a pledge promising to intervene and to prevent sexual violence when it might occur. As part of nationwide initiative Washington State University Vancouver is one of 10 universities in Washington state participating in the It’s On Us campaign.

To make the initiative more personal to students, WSU campuses throughout the state are initiating the It’s On Cougs campaign. According to Ashlyn Salzman, director of legislative affairs for ASWSUV, the campaign seeks to mirror aspects of the nationwide initiative. It’s On Cougs encourages students to sign the pledge to intervene in possible cases of sexual violence. Hopes are high that this pledge will remind students who would be bystanders that it is important to consider what can be done to prevent instances of sexual assault. The campaign also aims to raise awareness for victims of sexual assault, gives students information about available resources and aims to prevent the blame for the assault from falling on the victim.

According to Salzman, there has only been one reported instance of sexual violence on the WSU Vancouver campus; however, the national statistics for sexual assaults in college are much higher. It is estimated that one in five women and one in sixteen men are sexually assaulted in college, according to the national It’s On Us campaign. Additionally, eight in ten victims know their assailant. However, only about thirteen percent of rape victims report their assault. Therefore, national sexual assault statistics are generally viewed as being understated in comparison to the reality.

Although sexual violence has not been a widespread issue on the Vancouver campus, Salzman said that it is a large problem at the Pullman campus. Salzman said that “since we’re a part of that, it’s our problem too.” To that end, the It’s On Cougs campaign was began on Nov. 20. The initiative took place at tables around campus. These tables provided information about sexual assaults and campus resources for preventing and reporting.

Students were encouraged to sign the It’s On Cougs pledge, which consists of four points. One is to only take part in sexual activities where consent is granted by all parties. Students pledged to be an active bystander and to intervene when someone may require help. The pledge also provides support for those that have been victims of sexual violence. Finally, students pledged to help work towards an environment on campus that is both safe and respectful.

The close of the event did not signal the end of the It’s On Cougs campaign, as Salzman said it will be an ongoing initiative on the Washington State University Vancouver campus. For example, campus organizations, such as student government, were encouraged to sign the pledge and lend their collective support to the campaign. Additionally, the Student Diversity Center is devoting resources for the long term campaign of It’s On Cougs. The Diversity Center will provide access to informational resources regarding sexual assault and allow students to sign the pledge even after the initial event has passed.

While students pledge to stand up against sexual violence, student government has been taking an official stand on the issue as well. Salzman, as the Director of Legislative Affairs for the Vancouver campus, seeks to “make sure that this has representation on a legal level.” As such, WSU Vancouver has partnered with the director of legislative affairs at Central Washington University to analyze state laws regarding sexual assault and consent. This is done, Salzman said, so that campus administrations are more aware of the legal policies in place so as to follow them better.

The It’s On Cougs campaign also seeks to continue outreach and awareness through social media. When students sign the pledge, they are encouraged to share their dedication to the cause on social media outlets. Social media is being used in the nationwide campaign to spread the word about sexual violence and how students can put a stop to it.

It’s On Cougs aims to educate students about campus resources as well. On the Vancouver campus, the situation is “somewhat unique,” said Salzman, in that the school has both faculty channels for reporting instances of sexual violence as well as a commissioned police chief. This means that reporting of incidents can be done through law enforcement as well educational faculty. Those who are interested in finding out more about the national It’s On Us campaign can visit the campaign’s website at ItsOnUs.org.

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