Northwestern’s "It’s On Us" campaign kicked off their national week of action with a forum on sexual assault in Swift Hall Monday night.
ASG, MARS, SHAPE and Rainbow Alliance hosted the forum in order to hear from a range of perspectives on the current climate surrounding sexual assault on campus. They said the goal of the week is to raise awareness and gather recommendations to submit to the administration. The moderators from SHAPE and MARS presented facts from the recent campus climate survey that raised powerful questions about student trust in the university’s approach to sexual assault prevention.
According to the survey, 65 percent of respondents don’t believe it’s likely or very likely that Northwestern would handle a report of sexual misconduct fairly. This mistrust in the system came up repeatedly throughout the forum, as students struggled with questions of how the university can change. One of the debate's key topics was Northwestern’s programming: New students must complete the Agent of Change online essential NU about bystander intervention and new members of Greek Life receive a training session from SHAPE or MARS – but there is less emphasis on response programming. Forum moderator and Weinberg senior Erik Baker, a member of MARS, said this strategy has room for improvement.
“We focus more on prevention than response, but because so much of assault comes from serial offenders,” Baker said. “Tf you have a good system of response, it effectively prevents future assaults.”
Many of the students said they believed that the most significant challenge Northwestern faces is one of resource awareness. Some felt the university has not sufficiently publicized resources such as those listed on the back of each student’s Wildcard, and the new NU Help app that combines multiple resources like CAPS, CARE, Safe Ride in one convenient location. Beyond these resources, the forum struggled to identify ways to reach more isolated members of the student body, like those who aren’t a part of organizations where sexual assault training is mandatory.
SHAPE Communication Chair and School of Communication junior Amanda Odasz, one of the event organizers, said this lack of awareness is one of the reasons "It’s On Us" is so crucial to sexual assault prevention efforts on campus.
“The whole plan for this week was to think about how we could reach out to as many people as possible to get their responses – we need the student body to be as active as possible,” Odasz said.
The event drew concern and passion from the dozen or so students in attendance. They were especially concerned about the ambiguity of the relationship between alcohol and consent, and called for greater education on the subject.
For Bienen junior Nicolas Wagner, these kinds of open conversations seem to be the path toward a more informed culture surrounding sexual assault.
“I need to hear what other people to have to say because you learn a lot by listening,” Wagner said. “Greater information increases the possibility of greater action.”