On the first floor of DePaul Center located in the Loop, the Office of Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) and fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon IL-XI (SigEP) hosted an interactive event asking students and community members to take a stand with their “It’s On Us” campaign, as a part of the ongoing series of events for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“It’s On Us,” a national campaign, looks to stop campus sexual assault by bringing people together and teaching them that it’s everyone’s responsibility to promote awareness for sexual assault and violence.
“For today’s event, we pull together people within the DePaul community,” Amanda Mitchell, the Sexual Assault Awareness Month Coordinator, said.
Embodying the campaign, several DePaul communities showed up to spread awareness of this important yet sensitive issue to all. Besides the HPW and SigEP, the Health Education Action Team (HEAT), fraternity FIJI and also members of DePaul softball and volleyball teams were all present.
Dan Busen, the president of SigEP at DePaul, said the issue of sexual assault and violence isn’t receiving the attention that it should be from other fraternities and sororities across the nation. When Busen brought this proposal up to the HPW, it was an instant hit. SigEP and HPW’s request to all DePaul’s organizations were answered with excitement and passion about this opportunity.
“Education is really the best way to prevent this. You need people to be taking courses and workshops from professionals. You also need other point of views to be effective,” Busen said. “(DePaul) stepped in, spread the words, and helped market it. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
It wasn’t just advocating through voice. DePaul athletes Gena Lenti and Tyler Graham made sure that everyone who walked by had a chance to participate in this movement. A white banner was presented on the tables with “It’s On Us,” “Prevention is Possible” and “Take Care DePaul” printed on it along with more than 200 signatures of those who pledged to stand with the campaign. There was also a photo booth on the side for those who want their pledges to be recorded. Historically, sexual assault incidents within Division I sports aren’t uncommon.
“As athletes, we really want to push, connect with the student body and promote something that’s really important to us, in terms of communicating and educating about sexual assault,” Lenti, a senior on the softball team, said. The athletes at DePaul all go through bystander intervention course and other courses related to sexual assault awareness during orientation every year.
Senior Jeremiah Mahan was already curious about the set up before he was stopped and asked “if he is interested to stop sexual assault and violence on campus.” For Mahan, this was not only an important issue but also a personal one since one of his family members was sexually assaulted.
“It is important to make people aware that these things happen in a campus setting. I think by getting people to pledge (by picking up the pledge paper), something tangible to hold on to. It keeps (the message) present in people’s mind,” Mahan said. “Sometimes (you need to) make it apparent that it’s okay to help even if it doesn’t seem like it’s your business.”
Workshops like “Vinny Vow: The Bystander Intervention,” a guest speaker from the Rape Victim Advocates and a film screening about human trafficking and prostitutions are all happening this month to raise awareness for sexual assault and violence.
Mitchell said, “What we want to do for the DePaul Community is to remind everyone that you have a role and what you can do as an individual and a bystander.”
Ultimately the goal is not only to spread awareness and knowledge through out this month but as Tyler Graham, a senior on the volleyball team, said, “Not just to use April (to spread awareness) but use April as a kick starter to be more involved in sexual assault awareness throughout the year.”