“It’s on us.”
John Carroll University’s Student Union is working to share this message to prevent sexual assault.
Student Union President Tim Ficke announced the launch of the “It’s On Us” campaign at JCU to the University via email earlier this month.
In September, the White House launched “It’s On Us” to speak out against sexual violence and to encourage Americans to voice their support for survivors. After the nationwide launch, Ficke signed JCU up for the campaign. “I want everyone to feel safe and comfortable at John Carroll. It’s up to us to make a difference,” Ficke said.
Stephanie Cerula, program coordinator at JCU’s Violence Prevention and Action Center, said, “I think in bringing it here, we’re hoping that students start to talk about it.” Cerula described the campaign as “student-organized” and “student-driven.”
She explained that Ficke and Vice President for Communications Catie Pauley are leading the beginning of the campaign at JCU. “They’re doing something to change the culture on campus,” Cerula said about Student Union.
“It’s John Carroll: Everybody assumes that nothing bad happens,” said Pauley. “At some point, you realize that things do happen, and that we can make a change about it.”
“Just because we go to school in suburban University Heights does not mean we are immune to sexual assaults,” said Ficke. “We need to have open conversation with our students and community and send a clear message. Sexual assault is not and will not be tolerated. Period.”
Pauley and Ficke took part in a conference call with representatives from the White House and students from across the country.
“Basically, it was [the representatives] letting us know what the campaign was, how we could make a difference, and any questions that we had,” Pauley said.
She continued, saying that, “They really just wanted to actually make changes happen.”
“Students and faculty have reached out to me, thanking Student Union for taking this charge and offering all they can do to help,” said Ficke.
Cerula brought up questions to be asked by the community, such as, “If it does happen to someone, how can we support them?”
“The initial part of the campaign is to raise awareness about it,” Cerula said. “The students are really leading the initiative.”
As part of the campaign, a blitz will be held on Thursday, Nov. 20 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the D.J. Lombardo Student Center Atrium.
“We’re going to do an atrium blitz where students can sign an ‘It’s On Us’ pledge,” explained Cerula. “Also, we’ll have information about resources on and off campus so that they’ll be able to see – if they know someone who’s experienced this – then they can get the support that they need.”
For the campaign, the White House created a video of celebrities voicing their support for speaking out against sexual violence. Participants in the video included Jon Hamm, Kerry Washington and Randy Jackson, as well as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
“We’re hoping to do something like that on our campus with campus leaders, faculty [and] staff,” Cerula said.
Pauley explained the goal of the on-campus campaign. “It’s basically just raising awareness that these things do happen and that it’s okay to talk about it, and it’s just imperative that we do something about it.”
“We’re here for the students. Students are powerful – their voices are powerful,” said Cerula. “So I think the fact that it’s a student-led initiative will really help bring attention to it and bring light to it – to a matter that may be challenging to talk about.
“I think it’s important to know that John Carroll takes this stuff very seriously,” Cerula added, “and it has made it a priority to have the Violence Prevention and Action Center on campus. So if students do experience violence, then they have a resource and someone to advocate for them so that they can get the help that they need and know about resources.”
The Violence Prevention and Action Center first began at JCU in 2009, established with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women. The Center is located in the University Counseling Center on South Belvoir Boulevard, next to the Center for Career Services.
Cerula emphasized the confidentiality adhered to by the VPAC. “[Students] can come and talk about what happened and get resources and begin to figure out what the best thing is for them,” she said. The center has a 24-hour hotline that can be reached at 216-397-CALL, or 216-397-2255.
On Friday, Nov. 21, the VPAC will co-sponsor a white ribbon campaign with the JCU Police Department and the Department of Military Science. The white ribbons are not part of the “It’s On Us” campaign. However, they are meant to represent opposition to violence.
“It’s a male-driven campaign,” Cerula said.
White ribbons will be passed out to men in the atrium of the DJ Lombardo Student Center from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“If a male student chooses to wear a white ribbon [it] will show that they won’t commit, condone, or remain silent about violence against women and children,” Cerula explained.