Sexual assault is a serious problem faced by college campuses throughout the United States.
Every time an email is sent out notifying a campus community of a sexual assault incident, it strikes at the fiber and core of that community and calls into question the status of the campus as a safe environment for learning and development for all students.
Jalen Glass, a UTK graduate student studying social work, outlined the statistics behind sexual assault on campuses across the U.S.
“Statistically speaking, 20% of women and 13% of men and nearly half of all LGBTQ students will experience sexual assault at some point during their college career. These numbers have gone up since its study in 2014,” Glass said.
There are a number of UTK organizations working to raise awareness about and tackle the issue of sexual assault. One such organization is It’s On Us UTK.
It’s On Us is a national organization that was born out of a social movement of the same name and is aimed at combatting and raising awareness about sexual assault on college campuses across the U.S.
The organization works to completely prevent sexual assault in the first place, by educating campus communities about sensitive yet important topics, such as consent and how to be an active bystander. How to go about this and the specific initiatives undertaken to accomplish these goals varies among the different college campus chapters.
At UTK, It’s On Us is working hard on a number of initiatives and collaborating with a variety of on-campus organizations in order to achieve these goals. The campus chapter is a student-led and -founded organization that was started by another graduate student studying social work, Hannah Lozano.
Lozano was active in bystander intervention and wellness promotion during her undergraduate studies in Texas. When she arrived at UTK for graduate school, Lozano noticed that while there were a number of university initiatives aimed at preventing sexual assault and supporting the victims of sexual assault, there was not a local student-led organization working to achieve these goals and focusing on sexual assault prevention.
“Our goals in this chapter are to build a coalition of student organizations and campus resources; to engage the community through events, education, inclusive intervention and social change to create a safe environment for the community; and to support survivors,” Lozano said.
Lozano explained that the organization hopes to provide preventative efforts to the entire campus community through consent education and initiatives to engage Vols in being active bystanders.
Additionally, Lozano explained that the effort to end sexual assault on college campuses is a campus-wide effort.
“I would encourage groups on campus, including fraternities and sororities, campus organizations, UT athletics and others to take the pledge to create a culture of consent, bystander intervention and survivor support together by going to itsonus.org/pledge,” Lozano said. “Groups can come together to discuss the issue, share resources and take the pledge together to end sexual violence on campus and create a safe environment for all Vols.”
Lozano notes that the organization is also focused on survivors and their path to recovery by promoting policies that encourage the best interest of students and offer support for survivors.
Lastly, for students that want to take part in the movement to end sexual assault on campus, Lozano offered a number of ways to get involved.
“You can be an active bystander by learning to step in and intervene in a potentially dangerous situation. Be aware of your environment, investigate if an issue seems like it may cause harm to someone and take action in situations where help is needed,” she said. “You are a part of the solution, and it’s on all of us to step in and prevent sexual assault from occurring.”
The UTK community can also attend the events It’s On Us will be hosting this year, which are regularly posted on their social media — @ItsOnUsUTK on both Instagram and Twitter — and students are welcome to apply to join the organization here or take its pledge.