It’s On Us TU wants to help end sexual assault, and here’s how you can help

It begins with us, Temple Owls.

As a Temple University senior, it is frustrating to say that I can name students, my own friends, and myself as survivors from sexual assault.

Although, many believe something like sexual assault could never happen to them or occur at their own campus, it is indeed happening and we need to recognize that. According to RAINN, 11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation (among all graduate and undergraduate students).

For many students like myself, hearing about sexual assault can be triggering and it oftentimes feels like no one knows what to do because it has become a topic many of us want to ignore.

How many Temple students actually know that you can use this portal for an anonymous report of all instances of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking and sexual exploitation? If you asked me a few minutes ago, I would say I didn't know. This form can be used by anyone (including those outside of the university) to report an incident of sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. ALL STUDENTS SHOULD KNOW THIS!

However, there is some hope and it begins with It's On Us, a national movement to end sexual assault, launched in September 2014. This campaign asks everyone – men and women – to make a personal commitment to holding themselves and each other accountable and realize that the solution begins with us.

Temple University has their own chapter of It's On US and we were able to speak to their president, Shira Freiman, about their organization, how to identify a high-risk situation, what to do if a friend discloses a sexual assault, and more.

Can you explain the goal/mission of It’s On Us?

It's On Us is a national campaign against sexual assault that was implemented in 2014 under the Obama administration. The goal of the campaign is to bring a greater level of awareness of sexual assault, and eventually eradicate the issue entirely. It's On Us has a national pledge that I encourage you all to sign! It can be found on itsonus.org. The pledge is as follows,"[It's On Us] … To recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault. To identify situations in which sexual assault may occur. To intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. To create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported."

Can anyone join It’s on Us Temple? If so, are there meetings and when did this chapter begin on our campus?

Anyone and everyone is encouraged to join It's On Us TU! To join our organization, please send an email to [email protected] or message us on any of our social media platforms. We are a relatively new organization, and only have been in existence since Fall of 2017. One of the most important things to recognize, is that we have strength in numbers.

The voice of one is strong, but the voice of all is powerful. Sexual assault is a topic that is so often brushed aside and overlooked, but this issue is as prevalent as ever. The more people involved in our organization and engaging in these tough conversations, the less taboo it becomes. Through discussions, we have the ability to really put a stop to the problem.

How would It's On Us TU explain to students who do not know how to identify a high risk situation? How can a normal student intervene if we are in one?

High-risk situations can be extremely hard to identify, and even harder to maneuver. This is why it is so important to be having dialogue as often as possible on how to handle these trying times. A lot of identification of possible problem situations can be identified through body language of the person or persons involved, and often need to be handled on a case-by-case basis. There is no one correct way to respond to or recognize a potentially dangerous situation, so it is extremely important to know how to be an active bystander!

An active bystander is someone who makes a conscious effort to step in and address a problematic situation, in order to keep it from escalating. A high-risk situation can range from an individual (of any gender/ gender identity) continuously harassing another person in any capacity, to a time in which a party with large amounts of alcohol or drugs are available. A high-risk situation is simply one in which there is a possibility that negative consequences will arise. There is no recipe that says what is an is not a situation to watch for, nor is there any uniform way to respond. This is why it is so important to trust your gut and act in any situation you feel may be dangerous.

In regard to alcohol and drug use, this is NOT to say that every situation that involves either is likely to end in atrocity. Nor is alcohol or drugs ever an excuse for anything. A substance is never the cause of an assault; the person who did it is. It is just important to note that the college partying scene contributes to the risks involved with different situations. Many students fear reporting an assault in which any substances were involved because they do not want to get in trouble for underage drinking or using drugs. However, Temple's amnesty policy protects the person who reports it and/ or the person they reported on behalf of from any trouble with the university. It is very important that students feel comfortable reporting a situation and not come forth for fear of violating university policy against substances.

How should a student respond or act if someone discloses an assault to them? What does your org suggest?

One of the biggest things to remember is that survivors can file formal reports if and when they deem they are ready to. Specifically at Temple, there are ways for survivors to anonymously report an assault through a website called PaveSuite (which can be found here at https://www.pavesuite.com/Temple/PublicPortal/HomePage.

While you should encourage someone who discloses an assault to you to file a report if they feel ready, forcing someone to do so or continuously prying them for information can be extremely detrimental. It is important to remember that they have just gone through something extremely traumatic that was not of their control, so we must make sure survivors know that reporting is within their control. They may do so at their own pace, and to the extent with which they feel comfortable.

One of the most powerful things I learned on how to respond when someone discloses to you, is to never ask the survivor a question that starts with "Why?". You are then asking them to explain a situation to which they likely have no answer. This is a form of victim-blaming, and the last thing a survivor needs to do is attempt to explain themselves in regard to the actions of another. The best way to react is to acknowledge the way that person is feeling, and validate their story. Everyone responds to trauma in their own way, and belittling a survivor can push them into a very dark place. Let that person know that you are there to listen, and offer to provide resources for them to use if they would like. There are so many under-utilized resources that can help on your journey to healing! Make sure they know they do not have to go through this alone.

Why is it important for students to be aware of your organization?

There is something to be said for people who use their voice to speak up for others who many not have the opportunity to speak for themselves. I always say that if you have the capability to empower others and feel comfortable doing so, then it would be such a shame to let that go. Sexual assault is something that can happen to people of all races, gender identities, sexual orientation, and age. It is important to have representation from all types of people in order to keep our activism intersectional! When a large group of people comes together with the same common goal (to support survivors and end sexual assault), the chances of success greaten.

How can we make a difference on our own campus with tackling sexual assault awareness or any from of sexual violence?

Every single person holds the power to make a difference. No matter how small you may think your contribution is, I can promise you that it will help somebody. As for tackling sexual misconduct on campus, we need to be having these tough conversations. It would be ludicrous to think that people will just wake up one day and change their though processing, which is why we need to have discussions. For many people, college may be the first place they have been at that isn't teaching abstinence. In order to foster a healthy environment, we need to be talking about consent, safe sex, and STD's. Shying away from conversations about sex in general is extremely dangerous, and so we need to be speaking about it.

As for Temple specifically, surround yourself with people who encourage you to be your best self. Toxic people can hinder your own success in making a difference in your community. Familiarize yourself with the resources available both on and off campus, and be sure to advocate for them whenever possible. If you have the ability and/ or desire to speak about your own story or journey to healing, I encourage you to do so. Realizing that you are not alone is such an empowering feeling that can truly change someone's life.

What would you say to students who experienced any form of sexual violence, and are afraid of speaking up? How can we help these victims or support them?

To anyone who has been through any form of sexual violence – we believe you. Society can be so quick to shut down the experiences you have gone through, but we are here to tell you that your story is valid. Too many times have I heard people question a survivor's story and attempt to question them. In any situation there are unfortunately going to be people who feel the need to belittle you, but it really does help you to grow stronger. There are amazing faculty members and students on campus that work tirelessly to ensure that survivors and allies have access to whatever they need on their journey to healing. I have attached a list of resources available both on and off campus below!

It is also important for it to be known that survivors have the option of reporting an incident through the university's Title IX office(the office in charge of protecting students from discrimination), but not filing a formal police report. Filing with Title IX enables students to obtain a No-Contact Order from their perpetrator, allows the school to investigate the student and situation in question at a lesser level of evidence needed than a criminal investigation, and ensure that school is a safe place of attendance for the survivor and any possible witnesses.

Is there a message your organization has for Temple students today?

On top of everything, we would like for it to be known that we will work day in and day out until we feel that the needs of survivors and allies have been met to its entirety. While Temple has some amazing resources on campus, there is still plenty of work to be done in the future. We are dedicated to helping fill in the gaps between what is available and what is needed, but we cannot take on this issue alone. It is with the help of the student body that the quickest and greatest level of change can be made. The fight to end sexual assault starts and stops with us.

It's On Us TU and The Tab Temple want you to have these resources. You are never alone.

On-Campus Resources

Campus Safety Services, 215-204-1234. Temple University’s Police Department that maintains contact with Philadelphia Police Department to keep campus safe

Tuttleman Counseling Services, 215-204-7276. Confidential counseling provided by licensed psychologists available to all Temple students free of cost. Available for walk-in hours Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays 10AM-1:30 PM and Wednesdays 9AM- Noon

Wellness Resource Center, 215-204-8436. Provide rapid HIV testing as well as resources to encourage an overall healthy campus.

Student Health Services, 215-204-7500. Provide testing and treatment for Sexually Transmitted Infections as well as emergency contraception

Dean of Students, 215-204-7188. Provides supportive services, advocacy, and education as well as being a resource for faculty and staff who have concerns about a student

Office of Equal Opportunity Compliance, 215-204-8890. Investigate complaints of discrimination on the basis of age, color, disability, marital status, national origin or ethnic origin, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status, and genetic information

Title IX Coordinator – Andrea Seiss, 215-204-7188. Ensures campus is complying with all Title IX codes and serves as a resource for students looking to file under the American Disabilities Act

Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, 215-204-6556. Handle cases regarding violation of the Code of Student Conduct and help manage crisis situations

On-Campus Support Organizations

Temple Queer Student Union (QSU), [email protected]m

Active Minds at Temple University, [email protected]

Bhakti Yoga Club, [email protected]

Cure Mental Illness Temple University (CMI), [email protected]

One-Love at Temple University, [email protected]

Queer People of Color (QPOC), [email protected]

Strong Men Overcoming Obstacles Through Hard Work (S.M.O.O.T.H.), [email protected]

Student Activists Against Sexual Assault (SAASA), [email protected]

Off-Campus Resources

Women in Transition, 215-564-5301. Empower women to attain safety, equality, and justice to create an environment intolerant of gender-based violence, substance abuse, and poverty

Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR), 215-985-3315. Serves as Philadelphia’s only rape crisis center that provides group and individual counseling, workshops, and trainings to survivors and allies of sexual misconduct

National Organization of Male Sexual Victimization, Malesurvivor.org. Provides online resources specifically for men who has encountered sexual assault, including self-help tips and places to go in times of crisis

Philadelphia Sexual Assault Response Center (PSARC), 215-425-1419. Staffed 24/7 by experienced Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) who provide forensic rape examinations and evidence collection to both males and females. All resources here are available regardless of cooperation with law enforcement

William Way LGBT Community Center, 215-732-2220. Encourages, supports, and advocates for the well-being and acceptance of sexual and gender minorities in the Greater Philadelphia Region

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