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Greek groups host discussion about sexual assault at "It's On Us"

UNC students participate in a walk as a part of the “It’s On Us” even, which sought to raise awareness of and prevent sexual assault.

UNC students participate in a walk as a part of the “It’s On Us” even, which sought to raise awareness of and prevent sexual assault.

“Will any man love a raped woman?” Debski asked, tearing up. “Will someone respect me for who I am? Will I ever be able to trust again?”

Four Greek organizations hosted “It’s On Us” Thursday, an event that brought attention to sexual assault and raised money for the Orange County Rape Crisis Center.

Debski, one of the event’s speakers, said she was raped on her college campus in 2011.

“Rape is not just a physical violation,” she said. “It is a mental, emotional and spiritual attack that significantly changes your life.”

Debski said after her rape, she used alchohol to cope. She eventually feared going to class.

“I experienced persistent flashbacks of being raped every single time I walked down my college campus,” Debski said. “The university gym became a fearful place where I was afraid of running into him.”

After being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, Debski said she began to transition from victim to a survivor. Debski said after she pressed charges, the perpetrator was suspended from her university for 18 months.

Interfraternity Council President Morgan Pergande told the crowd the “It’s On Us” pledge — a national campaign — aims to create a culture where sexual assault is vilified and survivors are supported.

“An incredibly disproportionate number of sexual assault incidents occur at, in conjunction with, or shortly following an event at a Greek letter Interfraternity Council chapter,” he said. “This needs to change.”

Sigma Phi Vice President Andrew Clark, a sophomore, said people have been planning the event for about three months, and he estimated between 450 and 500 people would sign the “It’s On Us” pledge at the end of the event.

Kappa Kappa Gamma President Sonia Schrager, a junior business administration and journalism double major, said it is likely someone in her sorority chapter has experienced sexual assault.

“(We want to) make it be known that we as an organization and as a campus are right behind them. Making sure that they feel safe here is really important for our sisterhood,” she said.

Hathaway Pendergrass, president of the board of directors at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, said a conversation about sexual assault would not have generated such a large crowd when he went to UNC 10 years ago.

“What you’re doing right now is part of prevention. It’s having that discussion that you haven’t had before ... it’s talking about sexual assault, words that were so taboo that you would have to whisper them in the past. We’re not doing that anymore. You’re here talking about it,” he said.

Matt Mengert, vice president of public relations for the Interfraternity Council, said the council expects to have its own pledge against sexual assault by the beginning of the fall semester.

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