Elif Kolanci, Faith Konieczny, Nekyla Hawkins and Grace Saundners, members of Its On Us, participating in the Ohio State homecoming parade on Oct. 4. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State It’s on Us

In light of national conversation surrounding #MeToo and reporting sexual assault and violence, the Ohio State chapter of It’s On Us brings that conversation to campus. 

The student organization, which is a chapter of a national organization of the same name, is focused on ending sexual violence within Ohio State’s community and is hosting Fall Action Week — a week of events that facilitates different discussions around sexual violence — this week. 

It’s On Us is a national organization designed for college campuses that started as an initiative in 2014, according to the It’s On Us national website. The student organization formed less than a year ago. According to the national organization’s website, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 14 men will be sexually assaulted during a student’s time at college.

Mara Sydnor, co-adviser of Ohio State’s chapter of It’s On Us and first-year graduate student in social work, said the statistics influenced the organization’s campus focus.  

“We are starting with college campuses because sexual violence is so prevalent. There are so many people in just one space,” Sydnor said. 

At Ohio State, the number of reported rapes on campus increased from 72 in 2017 to 93 in 2018, an increase of nearly 30 percent, according to the university’s annual crime report. There were 56 in 2016, and according to a university press release, university officials attribute the increase in reports to initiatives including “an ongoing focus on educating faculty, staff and students on reporting.”

According to the website, 34.1 percent of sexual assault survivors drop out of college compared to the overall drop-out rate of 30 percent. 

With a theme of supporting survivors from all different identities and promoting awareness on campus, Fall Action Week runs until Oct. 24, featuring resources and information available on campus. 

On Wednesday, It’s On Us and Out in Social Work — a student organization that unifies the LGBTQ+ community with the culture of the College of Social Work — will present the LGBTQ+ Survivor Support Night and provide candy, crafts and survivor resources.

The last event on the agenda Thursday is a conversation around toxic masculinity and stigma on sexual assault on college campuses. Students will have the opportunity to meet with the organization and its partners from the Multicultural Greek Council, which is aiding in this discussion.

Nekyla Hawkins, It’s On Us vice president and fourth-year in social work, said universities need to offer more comprehensive resources.

“Big institutions need quality control, and there [needs] to be people holding the university accountable to supporting survivors and to having these resources,” Hawkins said.

In 2018, It’s On Us organized speaking opportunities at a Board of Trustees meeting for survivors of former university physician Richard Strauss’ abuse. An independent investigation found in May that Strauss abused at least 177 students and student-athletes during his tenure.

“We are doing our small part,” Hawkins said. “Whether it is holding meetings or just getting people to sign the pledge to end sexual violence, It’s On Us will always advocate for survivors.”

Hawkins said It’s On Us has three principles: bystander intervention, consent culture education and survivor support.

“Consent culture is respecting yourself and respecting those around you,” Hawkins said. “It’s asking and receiving verbal and nonverbal consent, as well as holding people accountable for jokes and comments that are questionable.”

Hawkins and Sydnor said the university should do more to promote awareness for sexual violence and survivor support. 

In 2019, 39 percent of students were “very or extremely knowledgeable” about where they can get help on campus if they are a victim of sexual assault or sexual misconduct — a four-percent jump from 2015, and two percent higher than the national average, according to the annual campus climate survey.  

Hawkins said that there have been steps in the right direction in terms of survivor resources, such as Ohio State’s partnership with the Sexual Assault Response Network of Central Ohio. Two SARNCO representatives work closely with It’s On Us, Hawkins said. 

However, Hawkins said that more could be done to represent the entire student body.

“There are still pieces missing,” she said. 

Of the students who were sexually assaulted, 40 percent nationally reported feeling betrayed by their institution, according to the website.

Sydnor said that in the future, she would like to see a program that supports survivors on the campus. Hawkins said that the amount of programming regarding sexual violence and sexual assault should send a clear message.

“People should be tired about hearing about consent,” Hawkins said. “It shouldn’t be something people have to learn anymore.”

The LGBTQ+ survivor support night is 6:30-7:45 p.m. Wednesday in Room 070 at 18th Avenue Library. The toxic masculinity conversation is 6-7 p.m. Thursday at the same location.

The Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-800-656-4673.