The Student Association must do more to promote the It’s On Us campaign to prevent sexual assault.
It’s On Us is a nationwide campaign to prevent and educate people on sexual assault. The SA, a participant in the campaign, held a Week of Action where community members learned self defense and assault survivors shared their stories in November, but there has been far less community discussion about assault this semester.
SA President Joe Frascello said the organization wanted to step back for the spring semester and focus on holding events in the fall so other groups could hold sexual assault awareness and education events. While other organizations — on and off campus — should get involved with sexual assault education and prevention, the SA doesn’t need to step back. In fact, student leaders can inspire organizations to act by facilitating informational events. And, when there aren’t many events being held by other groups, the SA should create them.
There were 12 forcible sex offenses reported to NIU Police in 2013, 11 reported in 2012 and six reported in 2011. Those numbers downplay the seriousness of assault: Women ages 18 to 24 “had the highest rate of rape and sexual assault victimizations compared to females in all other age groups” and assault is only reported by about 20 percent of female students ages 18 to 24 who are victimized, according to a Department of Justice report. Women aren’t the only people affected: Among college-age people, men accounted for 17 percent of rape and assault victimizations, according to the report.
Sexual assault is a widespread problem, and students like those at NIU are frequently affected. The SA is a major influence on campus and it can play a significant role in educating the NIU community so there are fewer sexual assaults and those who are victimized feel more comfortable coming forward. The best way the SA can do that is by holding educational events throughout the year. These events should include sessions that help people understand consent so fewer sexual assaults occur, as the board wrote in a Nov. 24 editorial.
Sexual assault isn’t going to go away unless leaders like those in the SA work to educate the community. The SA needs to make a commitment to holding educational and awareness events throughout the year.