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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

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SGA adopts White House initiative on assault bystander awareness

Katie Krzaczek
Violence against women street art found in Baltimore. Katie Krzaczek / The Greyhound

This article is part of a series on sexual assault, and appears as a follow up to last week’s “Sexual assault reported in Campion.

On Friday, the White House launched the “It’s On Us” campaign to combat sexual assault and violence against women. The campaign very bluntly focuses on educating everyone as bystanders in sexual assault incidents, but also on educating men on what constitutes a sexual assault.

The campaign’s site,, lists the four mission statements, each beginning with “It’s on us”:

…to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault…to identify situations in which sexual assault may occur…to intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given…to create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

It’s On Us asks individuals to pledge to these four statements, making “a promise not to be a bystander, but to be a part of the solution.”

At the launch of the campaign was Loyola Student Government Association (SGA) President Cory Hodson, ’15. “Bringing “It’s On Us” back to Loyola means understanding that the advances in ending sexual misconduct and abuse is [the duty of] our entire community,” said Hodson. “As a Christian community, I believe we ought to recall the fact that incidents of sexual assault are a complete and abject violation of the dignity of a human person.”

The timing of the campaign is all too relevant, as a Loyola student reported being sexually assaulted just last week. Following the incident report, a statement on behalf of Terrance Sawyer, vice president for administration, and Dr. Sheilah Shaw Horton, vice president for student development and dean of students, updated students and assured them that the residence hall in which the assault was reported is considered “a safe environment.” The statement continued, “It is important to note, however, that a sexual assault can occur anywhere in which sexual activity is taking place without consent. Please be vigilant in all interpersonal interactions to ensure your own safety and the care and concern for others.”

This very much reflects the mission of the White House’s campaign. For the first time, it seems, the responsibility is shifting from the survivors to the perpetrators and bystanders. At the press conference introducing It’s On Us, President Obama said, “We’ve been working on campus sexual assault for several years, but the issue of violence against women is now in the news every day. We’re getting a better picture of what domestic violence is all about. People are talking about it. Victims are realizing they’re not alone.”

At a time when sexual assault and domestic violence are taking a foremost position in the eyes of many politicians and activists working for the cause are beginning to gain some more ground, incidents that occur at the hands of public figures are garnering much harsher criticism than has been typical in the past.

Once this stigma that places blame on the survivors is broken, it is possible for these incidents to be reported more regularly, though they, hopefully, will be happening less frequently. Horton purports that some of the many reasons students may not report a sexual assault is their fear of “being judged—by other students, by the administration, by their parents.” She continues, “I think a lot of times students think that nothing will happen, that the perpetrator will not be affected and it will create [the opportunity for] retaliation.”

Vice President Joe Biden, who appears in the It’s On Us campaign video, alongside Kerry Washington and Jon Hamm, among other celebrities, has been very vocal regarding the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence in the past. More recently, Biden has spoken out following the release of the video of former Ravens’ running back Ray Rice assaulting his now-wife:

The one regret I have is we call it domestic violence as if it’s a domesticated cat. It is the most vicious form of violence there is, because not only the physical scars are left, the psychological scars that are left. This whole culture for so long has put the onus on the woman. What were you wearing? What did you say? What did you do to provoke? That is never the appropriate question.

Rice is now serving an indefinite suspension from the NFL. The NFL has created a social responsibility board comprised solely of women to oversee how the league handles instances of misconduct by players within the organization, including those of sexual assault or domestic violence. Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “Our goal is to make a real difference on these and other issues. We know that we will be judged by our actions and their effectiveness.” Sponsors like Budweiser have been especially vocal that the league is not doing enough in the wake of the Rice case, as well as those involving players Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy.

A lot of progress is yet to be made in how society handles sexual assault and domestic violence, as well as how it views the survivors and handles the discussions of such topics. “From sports leagues to pop culture to politics, our society does not sufficiently value women. We still don’t condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should,” said President Obama.

At Loyola specifically, Hodson said, “I think we’re well ahead of other colleges and universities in the U.S. when it comes to making sexual assault awareness and prevention a more urgent topic.” Student leaders are in the process of becoming “Green-dot” certified—part of a bystander intervention program—and administration is continuing its effort to create a stronger dialogue among students.

“This, it is important to point out, is not a Loyola issue. It’s an under-reported and an intensely shameful issue all over college campuses and beyond,” Hodson said. “Loyola students have a fundamental responsibility to look out for each other. We need to be doing that more.”

If you or anyone you know has been sexually assaulted and you would like to talk about it, contact the Counseling Center at (410) 617-CARE (2273).

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SGA adopts White House initiative on assault bystander awareness