Special Edition: “… and justice for all?”

Featured / April 16, 2014

PLU Puts Its Own Face on National Campaign

By Taylor Lunka ’15
Student Writer
The national It’s On Us campaign, launched by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, aims to keep men and women safe by challenging all of us—as active bystanders—to put an end to sexual assault.

When staff members at PLU’s Women’s Center heard of the campaign, they knew it was something they wanted to bring to campus.

“It excited us because we knew it was something students could get behind,” said Women’s Center Victim Advocate Jennifer Warwick.

And they have. Students and staff alike have signed pledges saying they will work, actively, to prevent sexual assault. And in no time, from Olson Gymnasium to Ramstad Commons to the Anderson University Center, signed Lute pledges and It’s on Us posters were hanging all over campus.

“This matters because, more than anything, I think everyone comes to campus wanting to be safe,” said Jonathan Yglesias, Men’s Project Coordinator at the Women’s Center. “Signing the pledge cards and hanging them up around campus reinforces that culture of care. We are proactive as opposed to reactive.”

Jennifer Smith, Director of the Women’s Center, said the It’s On Us campaign helps remold the responsibility of the university to reshape the culture around violence—and it’s not simply a women’s issue.

“Everyone is impacted by violence, and everyone is responsible to speak up, act up, notice and do something because if that becomes a cultural norm, people will know this isn’t tolerated on campus,” she said.

Across campus a variety of events offered opportunities for students, faculty members and staff to support this campaign, including a university-wide spring photo shoot.

Here’s a look at some members of the PLU community who are supporting the It’s On Us campaign:

Allison Stephens, Associate Director of Academic Advising
Stephens, a co-chair of the Active Bystander Coalition with University Pastor the Rev. Dennis Sepper, has been at PLU for about 10 years and says the university has been doing bystander intervention for a majority of that time.

“It’s a kind of awareness campaign, but it’s also a call to action for people to be active bystanders,” said Stephens.

Stephens said previous prevention work around the country hasn’t changed the sexual-assault numbers. Many colleges and universities have focused on telling men not to be rapists and on telling women to take precautions to protect themselves before they go out.

“We look at the statistics of how many people actually experience sexual assault, and they haven’t changed,” said Stephens. “So clearly that type of prevention work was ineffective.” She said there is more to the story of sexual assault that needs to be addressed.

“Most of the time, there are other people around, so why don’t we shift the focus and say ‘OK, other people around; let’s tune in a little bit so you can see early warning signs of high risk?’” said Stephens. “It’s our responsibility to make college a safer place for everyone.”

She said that sexual assault, unwanted physical touch, sexual harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence are all things we need to prevent to make campuses across the country safer.

“It is really hard to find someone who does not know someone who has been affected by this,” said Stephens.

Aaron Steelquist, Programs Coordinator, Student Involvement and Leadership
Steelquist, with the help of Hai Doan, Assistant Director of Social Media and Technology in Student Involvement & Leadership, created the PLU posters for the It’s On Us campaign, which features athletes, student leaders and faculty members and staff.

“Everyone seemed into the idea and wanted to be a part of it,” said Steelquist. “There has been a culture at PLU for a while [about these kinds of issues].”

Lt. Col. Kevin Keller, Professor of Military Science, MSIV Instructor
One of the first groups on campus to have all of its students sign pledges was ROTC, which partnered with the Women’s Center for the It’s On Us campaign.

“We are heavily involved in this,” said Keller. “We [the Women’s Center and ROTC] share a lot of the same goals.”

Keller said ROTC has a program similar to It’s On Us called SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Prevention), located in the resource area of the Memorial Gym.

“We are all part of the human race,” said Keller. “We have to take care of each other. We have to stem this ugly tide. This is something that affects so many—it has personally affected my own family.”

Keller, who has been on the PLU faculty since 2013, said he is making sexual-assault prevention a top priority.

“I really want to see change in our attitude,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Keller says that to tackle an issue as large as sexual assault, we all need to come together.

“We are teammates in this fight,” he said. “We can only get better by teaming up with folks.”

Jen Thomas, Associate Athletic Director
The volleyball team hosted a soft kickoff of the It’s On Us campaign during a game against the University of Puget Sound, and the Lutes wore shirts that the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) purchased. There also was a table at the game about the campaign, and everyone in SAAC signed a pledge card, as have most student-athletes

“The language of the campaign seems like a no-brainer,” said Thomas. “It’s an important topic that doesn’t often get brought up.”

The It’s On Us Campaign resonated with Thomas and many of PLU’s athletes.

“[Intervening] is something everyone should do,” said Thomas.

The Rev. Dennis Sepper, University Pastor
Sepper has been university pastor since 1995 and is co-chair of the Active Bystander Coalition with Allison Stephens.

First, the coalition brought together people from all departments on campus to get this campaign in full swing at PLU.

“We want to make PLU an absolute safe place for everyone,” said Sepper.

He said sexual assault is seen in too many parts of our world today.

“The level of violence in our society is crazy—crazy doesn’t even get to it,” said Sepper.

Sepper said this campaign reinforces PLU’s goals as a university. From Green Dot to bystander trainings and resources on campus, this is another part of the university that makes it PLU.

“Community is a big thing here,” said Sepper. “This issue [of sexual assault] is more than a women’s issue. It’s men’s, too—it’s a community issue.”

Taylor Lunka
Taylor Lunka
Taylor Lunka '15 is a Communication major with a concentration in PR/Advertising from Federal Way, Wash. In her time at PLU, Taylor has been involved in all aspects of media, from print to video. Taylor began as a news reporter for The Mooring Mast and most recently was the PR/Advertising Team Leader in MediaLab, PLU's applied-internship program housed in the School of Arts + Communication. She also was a senior producer for Waste Not, an Emmy-nominated documentary about food waste.

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