It’s On Us: meet the SU student making a difference in the northeast
Sam Skaller is an undergraduate student who is making campuses safer across the northeast
Samantha Skaller, a Viola Performance and Music History major and senior Syracuse University, is writing her undergraduate thesis on rape culture–and Mozart’s operas. While these two ideas may not seem connected, Sam is trying to incorporate two things that are important to her: music and sexual assault awareness.
Sam is extremely involved with many organizations on campus including First Year Players, Sigma Alpha Iota, and is also a Peer Advisor for the Office of Health Promotions where she discusses unhealthy relationships. Beyond being a bright and successful SU undergraduate, Sam is also the Northeast Regional Leader for It’s On Us, the national campaign to stop sexual assault on college campuses that celebrated its two-year anniversary last month. She’s in charge of every It’s On Us activist in the northeast and is the only regional leader who is still in college. “It’s been a weird balance.” Sam and her student team planned the entire It’s On Us Week of Action that took place last week at Syracuse University.
She originally began her involvement with It’s On Us as a member of the Student Advisory Committee and has since grown to play a larger role in stopping sexual assault. She was one of 17 extremely diverse students who were originally chosen to represent the It’s On Us national campaign last year. It was the first time that the campaign used students to be advocates for It’s On Us and to work on the ground with other students.
Sam has been a victim of sexual assault three times in her life, with two of them happening on campus at Syracuse. “I reported the recent one, which happened when I was a sophomore. It was somebody I was dating. It was somebody I invited into my own room, sober,” she said.
The assault happened in August and was not reported until April, because “people respond to trauma by freezing.” She decided to report while she was studying abroad in Strasbourg, France after a friend called her to tell her that they, too, had been assaulted.
“We were assaulted by the same person. I was the fourth person he had assaulted and he was still a student,” she told The Tab.
She says that the decision to join It’s On Us “was kind of easy.” One of the driving forces for wanting to be involved in the conversation was her experience being a camp counselor at the Interlocen Music Camp in Michigan. She was working with 15-year-old girls who wanted to know what college was like, specifically Syracuse University which was the backdrop for a recent traumatic event. “This needs to be the safest place for these girls. This needs to be the safest place for us on campus right now.” She “stumbled upon” an It’s On Us application after looking for organizations to join on campus to raise awareness and create change.
So after two years of the national campaign, what does It’s On Us mean to Sam?
“It means a lot of things.” The campaign gave Sam her voice, her power, and the chance to “come out on the other side and see the other end.” The organization has truly changed her life, making her hopeful for the future. Though we have a long way to go, she is already seeing improvements on the SU campus by working with the administration and students.
It’s On Us has shaped Sam into an unapologetic person who is moving towards recovery. “I feel confident, I feel strong, I feel good. For a long time, my identity was ‘survivor’ and that was the only thing that mattered…I’m a survivor, but I’m a musician, I’m a daughter, I’m a sister. I’m a quilt,” she said.
You can get involved by taking the It’s On Us pledge to end sexual assault by visiting their website.