By: Marcus Dieterle, Assistant News Editor
On Nov. 15, Towson’s Student Government Association announced that the University* has partnered with It’s On Us, a nationwide campaign that launched in Sept. 2014 to raise awareness about sexual violence on college campuses.
Towson originally joined the campaign in Nov. 2014 when the university encouraged students to sign the It’s On Us pledge and filmed short videos about sexual violence.
Now, as an It’s On Us Campus Innovation Partner School, Towson will be part of a network of 27 other partner schools learning how to strengthen its work around the campaign’s three core pillars: consent education, increasing bystander intervention and creating an environment that supports survivors, according to Sexual Violence Prevention Educator Kailah Carden.
As a partner school, SGA will participate in workshops and monthly phone conferences, and will have access to branding materials and It’s On Us resources, SGA Director of Health and Wellness Missy Ronan said in an email.
SGA will also work with Culture of Respect, an organization that provides a framework and tools to universities to assess and improve efforts to eliminate rape and sexual assault from their campuses, according to the organization’s website.
Student leaders at Towson and the other partner schools will connect with each other to combat sexual violence.
In an email, Ronan said that this semester, SGA has advocated for apps such as Safer Mobility, which connects students to TUPD, and Circle of 6, which increases accountability within friend groups to stay connected.
SGA is also working on reaching out to bars in Towson’s uptown area to go through training to become “safe bars.”
Safe Bars is a bystander education program that trains bar staff to stand up to signs of sexual violence or potentially threatening situations.
“It’s also up to our students to be active bystanders in the prevention of sexual violence and understand resources and how to speak up when they see something,” Ronan said.
SGA will have a kickoff event Dec. 6 to reintroduce It’s On Us to Towson, according to a press release from the University. According to Ronan, the event will be the first effort for the campaign to become a constant presence on campus.
The Collegetown Consortium, of which Towson is a member, received a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women to address sexual violence on college campuses.
According to Carden, “part of this three-year project will be to increase survivor services, develop response resources across all ten participating institutions of higher education, and create an app to support students in the real-time prevention of sexual violence.”
Since Towson’s initial involvement with It’s On Us in 2014, the University has created the Office of Institutional Equity, which makes sure Towson complies with Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination, including sexual violence, in educational institutions.
The university also created Carden’s position of sexual violence prevention educator.
This summer, Towson launched a new website with sexual violence prevention and response resources specific to the University. The website features tools for bystander intervention, links to both on and off-campus resources, and a mechanism through which people can report sexual violence to the University, according to Carden.
Carden said active bystanders can play a significant role in combatting sexual violence by speaking out.
“Our brains tell us not to step in or speak out if no one else is, but we are all waiting for the one brave person to say what we are all thinking,” she said. “If you want to combat sexual violence, you need to be the one to speak out first. Others will follow your lead.”
Students who are survivors of sexual violence can contact the Office of Institutional Equity for academic, housing and extracurricular interim measures, and students can contact the office to report witnessed or experienced violence.
According to Ronan, the It’s On Us campaign will come as a learning curve in understanding how SGA can apply these strategies to a diverse campus community.
“Preventing sexual violence is something that my department feels closely connected to and passionate about,” Ronan said. “This won’t end with our administration and will be a continued commitment by SGA.”
Sarah Rowan contributed to this article
*This story has been edited. The originally story originally claimed that it was just the SGA that partnered with It’s On Us. Towson University is a partner, not just the SGA.