Hundreds of students sat on the lawn in front of Morehead Planetarium Thursday as part of It’s On Us, an annual event held at UNC since 2015, which provides students with resources found on campus in supporting and preventing sexual assault.
Following the #MeToo movement and the national push to bring the discussion about sexual assault to the forefront, the event held an even stronger significance this year.
“Sexual assault is something that is pushed under the rug,” sophomore Leah Idichandy said. “People don’t understand the scope. No one wants to talk about it but #MeToo has helped that. It’s good to bring awareness and give good ways to approach it.”
The event was hosted by Sigma Phi fraternity, Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and One Act. It included speakers from the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, the Carolina Women’s Center and the Delta Advocates.
Bryson Penley, co-chair of philanthropy for Sigma Phi and an organizer for the event, said he wants It's On Us to highlight the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses.
“We want to show the platform of resources that UNC has and that there are ways to support survivors,” he said. “And that it’s about reckoning with yourself and how you can best contribute to a change in the culture.”
Shelley Gist Kennedy, the program coordinator for the Carolina Women's Center, reiterated the need for a cultural change. She spoke about the importance of recognizing whose issue sexual violence is, since women are often the victims of sexual assault and men are often the perpetrators in our culture.
“What the It’s On Us campaign is encouraging is that sexual violence is everyone’s issue,” she said. “There is no one who gets to opt out because it affects each of us and each of us have a role to play. You each have a role to play in preventing violence. You each have the potential to serve as an ally, as an active bystander, as a supporter to survivors.”
Peer Educators for One Act also spoke and presented One Act’s active bystander model for how students can step in to help prevent sexual assault amongst their peers.
Following the speeches, the event broke out into discussion groups led by One Act Peer Educators to facilitate further conversation about how students can be active bystanders as well as supporters for survivors of sexual assault.
Penley said he hopes what people get out of the event is the wide platform of resources UNC has to offer for the prevention and support of sexual assault and how they can be a part of a bigger change.
“It’s in the name. It’s on us,” he said. “It’s on all of us to stop these types of behaviors, and on all of us to recognize our actions in supporting a culture which does often oppress. It’s on us to try and recognize those behaviors, and it’s on us to try and change them.”
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