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Ohio State joins ‘It’s On Us’ campaign to raise awareness about sexual assaults

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Ohio State is teaming up with the White House to promote a campaign aimed at combating sexual assault.

“It’s On Us” is a campaign to help prevent sexual assault on college campuses through awareness and education. Other institutions like the University of Michigan have also signed on.

The campaign asks students to sign a pledge promising to recognize non-consensual sex as sexual assault. It also asks students to take zero-tolerance stance on sexual assault and to support victims.

Vice president for Student Life Javaune Adams-Gaston said she’s satisfied with the campaign’s goals.

“It is a very important effort that will help campus community members across the nation collectively take a stand against sexual assault. I am so proud of the energy and excitement that our student leaders have shown for this initiative, and they have the university’s full support, engagement and encouragement,” she said in an email.

Undergraduate Student Government President Celia Wright, a fourth-year in public health, said OSU has been taking part in the creation of this campaign since last spring when she was at the Association of Big Ten Students conference.

The Association of Big Ten Students is a group composed of the leadership teams of student governments at each of the schools in the Big Ten, Wright said.

“We meet several times a year to discuss best practices, organize policy direction amongst us, and to lobby the federal government,” she said.

When the conference last met, Wright said they were invited to the White House to discuss the It’s On Us campaign with Kyle Lierman, the associate director of Public Engagement for the White House.

“Kyle and assistants took the input of student government leaders about the campaign, that day,” Wright said. “They were asking about strategies to successfully reach young people.”

Wright said the campaign is about breaking down the stigma behind sexual assaults.

About 28.5 percent of women reported experiencing an attempted or completed sexual assault before they graduated, according to data published in the “Campus Sexual Assault Study” in December 2007, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Of 28,045 women at OSU’s Columbus campus, that 28.5 percent would equate to nearly 8,000 women. In comparison, 25 forcible sex offenses were reported at OSU’s campus in 2013, up from 21 in 2012, according to an OSU report released Tuesday.

That number went to 14 in 2013 from seven in 2012, according to the report. There were nine reported in 2011. Overall, there were 25 reports of forced sexual offenses campus-wide in 2013, the report said. Eleven of those occurred in residence halls. The campus total in 2012 was 21, with 14 reported at residence halls.

Two public safety notices were issued to the OSU community last weekend after three separate instances of sexual assault were reported. The first notice was issued Saturday after a female OSU student reported she was raped in a South Campus residence hall to University Police on Saturday morning. The second notice was issued Sunday after two women reported sexual assaults in separate incidents off-campus. One of the women was an OSU student.

Wright said USG wants to create a culture shift on campus that would promote an environment where victims would feel inclined to report incidents.

That shift, with this campaign, begins with changing Facebook profile pictures to the outline of the It’s On Us campaign logo to help raise awareness.

DaVonti’ Haynes, a third-year in public affairs and USG’s director of health and safety, changed his Facebook profile picture to the outline of the logo.

“I changed mine because I actually care about the cause, about sexual violence awareness on college campuses because it is something that a lot of people overlook and a lot of people think is not as big as a deal as it actually is, because typically you do not hear about a lot of the rapes or sexual assaults that happen,” he said. “A lot of people who actually experience it are scared to report it and they are scared of what other people are going to think. So I think raising awareness and letting people know that there are people here on campus that care and they are going to support you through it.”

Wright also said USG has plans to do various It’s On Us-related activities throughout campus and that students should also be on the lookout for a joint OSU and University of Michigan campaign video that encourages students to take the pledge.

She said OSU and Michigan will compete to see who can get the most pledges.

This campaign comes after OSU was a part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights list of 55 U.S. colleges being investigated for their handling of sexual abuse complaints under Title IX.

Title IX is a clause of the Education Amendments of 1972 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in publicly funded programs.

After the investigation, which mostly applauded OSU on Title IX compliance, the university entered a pact with the Office of Civil Rights to ensure proper Title IX obedience.

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