GCU launches weeklong ‘It’s On Us’ campaign
By Janie Magruder
GCU News Bureau
Leera Tripp had just turned 19 and was a new freshman at a university in Minnesota when she experienced something that changed her life forever.
One evening when Tripp was alone and off campus, a stranger sexually assaulted her. No one intervened, and although her university offered counseling, the fear, shame and anxiety that took root inside of her grew. Tripp dropped her classes and left the university.
“I had to take some time to work things out, and God showed me to GCU,” said Tripp, now a senior who plans to graduate this spring with a bachelor’s degree in counseling with an emphasis in addiction, chemical dependency and substance abuse.
‘It’s On Us’
GCU is participating in the national “It’s On Us” campaign to build awareness of the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. Here’s a look at activities ASGCU is hosting:
The University’s support of and involvement in a national movement against sexual assault, “It’s On Us,” is a point of pride with Tripp, who’s among GCU students speaking out in a campus video and encouraging others to take a stand against the violence. The “It’s On Us” campaign this week at GCU will offer myriad opportunities for students, faculty and staff to learn more about the issue and pledge to:
- Recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault
- Identify situations in which sexual assault may occur
- Intervene is situations where consent has not or cannot be given
- Create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported
“We want to set a precedent on GCU’s campus that we do not tolerate sexual assault and we want victims to know it’s not their fault, that this is a place where they can feel safe,” said Cody Dumas, president of ASGCU, the University’s student government.
According to “It’s On Us,” both women and men are victims of sexual assault on college campuses. One in five female students and one in 16 male students will be victimized in their lifetimes, the campaign states.
The GCU campaign kicked off Sunday with the distribution of hundreds of fliers on campus, and the video was shown at Chapel this morning. During the week the film, “The Hunting Ground,” also will be screened, self-defense classes will be offered by the Public Safety Department, bystander training will be offered and pledge drives will be held. Every student signing a pledge will receive an “It’s On Us” T-shirt to wear all week and at the game.
Opening our eyes wider this year
GCU first participated in the campaign last year, when more than 1,000 pledges of support were collected, Dumas said. This year, the goal is 2,000, which shouldn’t be difficult with 4,000 new students living on campus.
“We are asking people to make a commitment to opening their eyes a little bit more, to being more aware of their surroundings and situations other people are in,” he said. “It’s as simple as walking in between two people, making that phone call even if you are 20 feet away but can still see something shady going on.”
Dumas found himself in that situation about a month ago when he saw a couple arguing in a GCU parking garage. The woman was shouting at the man to leave her alone, and he kept following her, so Dumas called Public Safety.
“It’s On Us” dovetails with GCU’s creation of “living, learning communities” in its residence halls across campus, including four new dorms in The Grove into which thousands of freshmen moved in August, said staff member Monica Ware.
“They are not just here to be educated or for that singular experience, but they live in a community with double- and triple-occupancy, and part of that is keeping each other safe,” said Ware, a resident director in Juniper Hall.
Ware, who also is studying for a Ph.D. in general psychology with an emphasis in cognition and instruction, first became interested in victim advocacy when she was an undergraduate at a Florida university.
“I became really passionate about educating young people about being a first responder,” she said. “They don’t see themselves as first responders, but we want them to know that if they feel like something isn’t right, it may not be right. Students need to be empowered to speak out if something seems shady to them. Even asking, ‘Is everything OK here?’, can change someone’s life.”
Tripp, who is vice president of GCU’s Canyon Counselors, wishes someone had done that for her four years ago in Minnesota. However, the future counselor can see the silver lining in her once-dark cloud.
“I got the professional help I needed thanks to my parents, and I had the support of my friends,” she said. “This experience made me who I am, and I’m almost glad it happened because I would never have come to where I am now.”
Dumas said that, even though the week of action ends Friday, GCU won’t stop there. Student government leaders are strategizing ways to host lectures and additional classes to further educate students, faculty and staff throughout the year.
“Even one incident is one too many,” he said.
Contact Janie Magruder at (602) 639-8018 or firstname.lastname@example.org.