It’s On Us hosts Spring Week of Action for sexual assault awareness

It’s On Us members tabled in the breezeway during the Spring Week of Action to raise sexual assault awareness.
It’s On Us members tabled in the breezeway during the Spring Week of Action to raise sexual assault awareness. Photo credit: Sharron Lou

The University of Miami’s It’s On Us chapter hosted a series of events facilitating conversations on sexual assault through their recent Spring Week of Action, engaging students with games, giveaways and interactive activities designed to raise awareness on campus.

It’s On Us events were accompanied by donuts, cookies and Chick-fil-A, depending on the day. Each day of the week featured a different topic related to sexual assault presented in a variety of ways, culminating in the bi-annual Take Back the Night event on Friday, April 15.

“Having a lineup of events in a week with different giveaways in each day and a different activity is a great way to engage the campus community and make an organization well known,” said program coordinator Diana Mercado. “It’s the best way we can reach students and give them the resources and knowledge that we exist.”

On Monday, students discussed sexual double standards between men and women using the format of the card game “We’re Not Really Strangers.” Students filled out forms asking them their opinion on “body counts,” the amount of sexual partners one has had; virginity and other gender norms before disucssing their opinions with It’s On Us members.

“People can just give their honest and truthful opinions about how they feel about certain double standards,” chair of Double Standards Sara Howard said. “They were very quick, to the point questions.”

On Tuesday, students guessed true or false for facts about sexual assault relating to minority groups and were rewarded with a cookie and positivity stickers.

“It affects all groups the same, the psychological effects of it, but certain groups might feel uncomfortable reporting to police authority because of the conflict their group has had with authorities in the past,” said Tom Ren, chair of Minority Groups and Sexual Assault.

Ren highlighted the importance of community in sexual education and the role it can play in responding to these issues.

“It’s important because UM and Miami in general is a very diverse community,” Ren said. “We all come together and play a role in defining our own experiences on campus. It’s important that we know about every group.”

Wednesday, in the spirit of Wellness Wednesday, saw students discuss the effects of sexual assault on mental health.

“It takes experiencing it to know the deep effects it takes, which is not something we wish on anybody,” Mercado said.

The topic was communicated through games of “Two Truths and One Lie,” where students could learn hard facts about the effects of sexual assault. Bagels were also provided to attendees.

On Thursday, students learned about sexual assault’s effect on survivors’ body image.

The week culminated with Friday’s Take Back the Night, where survivors of sexual assault, sexual misconduct or other traumatic events shared their stories in a supportive environment and safe space.

It’s On Us provided coloring pages, journal reflections and free pizza. The night concluded with participants walking a lap around Lake Osceola while holding candles, taking back the night with their light.

One participant, Izzy Childress, a sophomore microbiology and immunology major, shared what Take Back the Night meant to her.

“I wasn’t planning on going to Take Back the Night, but I’m glad I did. It reminded me that we can’t change what has happened to us, but we can use those experiences to grow and help others who go through things that are similar,” Childress said.

Sexual assault is pervasive on college campuses. According to RAINN, “13% of all students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.”

It’s On Us works to provide resources for these students in addition to educating the campus on sexual assault and creating a healthier university environment.

“People are more aware of the situation,” Mercado said. “The common rape myths and cultures aren’t as pervasive in the UM population.”

For students who seek resources relating to sexual assault, It’s On Us can help. Students may also reach out to the Dean of Students’ Office for further assistance.