It's on us, say students who pledge to stop sexual assault

Students Emily Parson and Christa Lopez oversee a table in front of the Student Union filled with signatures of students who pledge to fight sexual assaults.

By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau

The white paper covering tables had dozens of names scribbled on it. The names were public pledges by Grand Canyon University students to help prevent sexual assaults.

No question, the Associated Students of GCU's weeklong awareness campaign, It’s On Us, is vital.

  • Women ages 18-24 who are college students are three times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence, according to Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.
  • 11.2% of all students experience rape or sexual assault, according to It’s On Us, the national organization leading the campaign on the nation’s campuses.

It wasn’t just statistics at the name-covered tables set up outside the Student Union.

“My friend was raped by someone she knew,” said GCU student Victoria Vredevoogd. “She still has a fear to this day of dating. It’s hard for her to get back in relationships.”

Vredevoogd is determined to help get the word out and for students to commit, on paper or by online pledge, to “create a culture of consent, bystander intervention and survivor support.”

Student Victoria Vredevoogd helps students sign an online pledge to end sexual assaults.

The emphasis of the campaign has shifted, however.

“It’s hard to make a difference in awareness by focusing on the small number who commit those acts,” said Josue Olivas, ASGCU Program Coordinator, who is leading the campaign here with ASGCU students.

“So we are trying to motivate students to intervene when they have a chance to.”

Among college women, 9 in 10 victims knew the offender. If friends or bystanders see something, they should say something -- that is the sentiment of the "See something. Say something" T-shirts given out this week.

Said junior Emily Parson, “If there are a lot of people at a party and someone seems to be doing something that isn’t consensual,” bystanders should ask questions or step in.

Consent is knowing, voluntary and clear permission by word or action to engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity or contact, according to GCU’s policy manual on sexual misconduct.

GCU thoroughly investigates sexual harassment and sexual violence complaints, regardless if the incident occurred on or off campus.

It’s On Us offers intervention techniques for bystanders, such as to call authorities, use humor or other distractions to divert the aggressor, get others involved in the situation or show support for the person saying no.

Sexual harassment is another form of aggression. All GCU students complete a Title IX training module.

Parson said one of her friends asked GCU officials to step in on a work situation.

“It was good to see how GCU handled it. They cared about her and helped her,” Parson said. 

Christa Lopez, a junior, agreed: “We are a tight-knit community where people hold each other accountable.”

But both Parson and Lopez said they take necessary precautions off campus, including never traveling alone to the store, especially at night.

At GCU, the Safety Escort Program provides a Public Safety escort upon request (602-639-8100). And the Emergency Blue Light Phones serve as a direct connection to Public Safety.

A new element to the week of awareness this year was a Prayer and Worship Night on Wednesday.

“This is a sensitive topic for a lot of people, but it is an epidemic,” said Olivas. “We wanted to bring in the spiritual side to bring healing and bring in a Christian perspective.”

After Friday’s final pledge drive, until 1 p.m., the signature sheet will be hung on the Student Union entrance, a fitting visual testimony to end the violence.

RESOURCES

To file a criminal complaint: GCU’s Department of Public Safety,602-639-8100, or Phoenix Police Department, 602-262-6151.

To file a university Title IX complaint: [email protected] or 602-639-5900.

For medical assistance: GCU’s Health and Wellness Clinic, 602-639-6215.

For counseling: Offered through Student Care by appointment, 602-639-7007.

For spiritual needs: Spiritual Life can be reached at 602-639-6750.

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. (1 John 3:1)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/