National “It’s On Us” campaign raises sexual assault awareness

A campaign started by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden has made its way to Geneseo. The “It’s On Us” club—whose mission is to end sexual assault on college campuses—campaigned in the MacVittie College Union during the week of Sept. 20. Geneseo has implemented changes in regard to its sexual assault policy since the campaign’s launch over a year ago.

The It’s On Us club was started in the fall 2014—cofounded by seniors Matthew Rocco and Aaron Weintraub.

“We were both RAs and our boss started a thing called Leading Men Stand Up. He basically wanted to create a men’s group to talk about these issues,” Rocco said. “Once the It’s On Us campaign came out, we kind of rallied with that … instead of a men’s group, it became more of an everybody group and with a focus of having everybody involved.”

“[We] had people take the pledge and we had a conversation with them, like what consent is and why this topic is important on college campuses,” he added.

The main issue discussed in the pledge is consent.

“That’s your baseline: just what consent is. It’s a very simple concept,” Weintraub said. “When somebody says no, then they mean no. When somebody can’t say no, that’s a no. Even if someone doesn’t quite say no but they’re not into it or enthusiastic about it, that’s still a no—a lot of people just don’t seem to get that.”

Rocco expressed his enthusiasm for the national campaign and Biden’s visits to college campuses to promote It’s On Us. “I think it’s pretty humbling that a person that high up will come to a college campus and really try to change the issue,” Rocco said.

Director of Student Care Services & Title IX Coordinator Tamara Kenney has also been working on making emergency cards for students. The cards consist of “specific phone numbers for people to call and on the backside is just a reminder that we all are bystanders and that we should take care of one another,” Kenney said.

To Kenney, the It’s On Us campaign also deals with the issue of bystanders and is there “to remind people to step up for each other.”

“If you see someone who looks to be intoxicated and may be getting themselves in a bad situation or someone’s taking advantage of them, then to be able to step in and stop something from happening or to be a positive bystander after the incident and then help that person get the services they need,” Kenney said.

In the future, Kenney hopes that more people can get involved in speaking out against sexual assault and that student, faculty and staff members alike will all participate in the initiative to end sexual assault.

Kenney’s hopes are largely in line with the stated mission of the It’s On Us club according to Rocco: to educate and promote awareness as well as advocacy.

“We recognize that people aren’t just going around and committing these crimes or being the perpetrators, but we want people to stand up when they see a situation like that,” Rocco said. “We want them to be involved in educating other people that consent is something that needs to be given in any relationship and that should be supported.”