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Banner up: Ohio State club combats campus sexual assault

13 sororities and 18 fraternities hung banners as part of AWOW’s initiative to educate campus on sexual assault and misconduct. Credit: Stewart Blake

An Ohio State undergraduate organization is putting in efforts to help campus “Banner Up” against sexual assault and misconduct.

Advocates for Women of the World, along with the support of 32 Greek chapters, engaged in the second consecutive “Banner Up” campaign during Welcome Week to educate students about sexual assault.

As students moved in throughout the campus area, Greek houses hung banners that contained a variety of messages aimed at spreading awareness, such as “It’s a Dress, Not a Yes” and “Consent is Sexy Mandatory.”

“This is our second year doing it and it should be annual,” said Nicole Haddad, a fourth-year in finance and the co-founder of AWOW. “We were actually inspired by a video at Indiana University. They originally had the Banner Up campaign and it was an Interfraternity Council program.”

Fraternities were the sole participants in the campaign at Indiana University, but AWOW decided to expand the Ohio State version of the campaign to also include sororities.

The campaign was intended to be a direct response to banners that have floated around campus that mocked anti-sexual assault messages, which Haddad said were upsetting to sexual violence victims and concerning for students looking to change the culture.

In 2015, an off-campus Ohio State house made headlines for its banner that read “Daughter Daycare,” adding controversy to a trend on campuses across the country.

Nearly every sorority participated this year — 13 out of 15 — and 18 fraternities at Ohio State joined the movement.

Haddad strongly encouraged continuing education on sexual assault, which is a main goal of AWOW’s campaign, but acknowledged information doesn’t flow as freely as it should among young people.

“There should be talk of consent and what the standard is and what that means. It should be ingrained earlier,” she said.

With one of the largest student populations in the nation, Ohio State has the ability not only to change the culture, but also to set the standard with sexual assault awareness that goes beyond Title IX and services aimed at educating students, Haddad said.

“Sixty-thousand students. People coming from all over the world. There are different standards for the world,” Haddad said. “We understand that and we aimed this campaign at not just females, but the world. There are cultural differences and this education is important.”

Going forward, AWOW has its sights set on increasing participation — which doubled this year as compared to last — and on achieving status as a university event with potential involvement from athletic teams, clubs, and other student organizations.

“[AWOW’s] hope is that Banner Up will serve as a step in the right direction towards ending campus rape culture,” Sara Wendel, a fourth-year in public management and AWOW’s current president, said.

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