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NC universities take stand against sexual assault

Competition and rivalry aside, universities across North Carolina came together on Monday to stand in solidarity against sexual assault as part of a statewide day of action.

The UNC-system Association of Student Governments dedicated the day to an “It’s On Us” campaign — based on the notion that all campuses are affected by sexual assault. Anita Simha, ASG vice president for campus community, said the campaign promotes awareness of the issue.

“I think it is pretty obvious that sexual violence is a prevalent and important issue to combat on university campuses,” Simha said. “We hope that spreading awareness will keep the issue in the back of people’s minds so that it will come to the forefront when they have the chance to be an active bystander or educate peers.”

ASG, which is funded by an annual $1 student fee and advocates for the 17 UNC-system schools, encouraged each university to participate. The organization printed “It’s On Us” T-shirts and distributed them to each school to get students involved.

East Carolina University is dedicating an entire week — April 13-17 — to the cause. Jake Srednicki, ECU student body president, said rape in college communities is not acceptable and he hopes this campaign will stimulate a change.

“We hear about victims that are afraid to talk about it because people won’t believe them or will label them,” he said. “We are trying to create an atmosphere where students are willing to come out and talk about it so that it can be reported and justice can be served.”

Srednicki said his goal is raising awareness and making students aware of the resources available for the treatment and prevention of sexual assault.

“Every year, 25 percent of our student body is brand new to the school,” he said. “Our community is always changing so we must make sure to shed light on ways to stay safe.”

Winston-Salem State University promoted the campaign Monday by playing an “It’s On Us” video in the breezeway that is a major gathering area, along with handing out ASG’s t-shirts.

Kenny Brown, student government’s vice president of external affairs at WSSU, said the event got students involved on campus, with many signing up online and tweeting with the hashtag #ItsOnUs.

“We have had a couple of incidents, so I wanted students to become aware of their job to stand up,” Brown said. “It is about making victims feel comfortable about coming out and talking about it.”

UNC-Wilmington combined the awareness day with its “Clothesline Campaign.” Students designed a shirt to hang on a clothesline to be a voice against domestic violence. They received an “It’s On Us” T-shirt afterward.

Steve Nunez, an ASG delegate for UNC-W, said sexual assault today is all too common.

“Sexual assault on college campuses, regretfully, is a theme that we see in the media time and time again, while countless incidents go unreported,” he said. “We can eliminate this trend that has become normalcy in the college experience.”

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