We can all use our voices to change the culture to prevent sexual violence. Prevention requires addressing the roots causes and social norms that allow sexual violence to exist. During Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we are engaging groups whose influence can play a critical role in changing the culture. This post offers the experiences of one student activist who chose to create change with other Greek Letter Organizations.
In November of 2015, William Paterson University held its first It’s On Us Sexual Assault Awareness Campaign. This event, hosted again in 2016, covered topics to educate our community members about sexual assault prevention, risk factors, and rape culture, such as:
- Long term emotional trauma
- Slut-shaming and victim-blaming
- Language leading to rape (Such as language used in music, media, and words used publicly to describe sexual acts)
- Normalization of sexual violence in the media
- Looking at sexual violence through a cultural perspective
- Effects of alcohol in sexual abuse & harassment
- Understanding survivors and healing
- Normalization of rape culture in Greek life
- Title IX
Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary General, once said, “Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” This is the philosophy we followed when we did our It’s On Us campaigns. During both campaigns, I reached out to my Greek counterparts and asked for their participation. While members of the Greek community were at first hesitant to participate, we had several discussions with Greek leadership that led to their participation. Despite differences, we understood that we could work together on this event for the betterment of our community. The Greek Senate and two Greek lettered organizations, Phi Kappa Tau & Theta Phi Alpha, sponsored tables on the effects of alcohol in sexual abuse and harassment, as well as rape culture within Greek life.
As student body president, assisting in the coordination of this event was extremely important because I believe that education is the key to effectively preventing sexual violence as a community. When people are more knowledgeable and aware, there are greater chances that someone can recognize a harmful situation and speak up. This campaign creates a positive and engaging environment in which participants are able to discuss a serious and sensitive topic. We all have a collective responsibility to care for the well-being and safety of all people. Together, we can create a safer environment. The more people we educate and empower, the more power and support we have to end sexual assault on college campuses.
Esaul Helena is a 22-year-old senior from William Paterson University (WPU) majoring in finance. At WPU, Esaul is the president of the Student Government Association, and is involved in Greek life as a member of Phi Kappa Tau. As a relative of a survivor, Esaul is passionate about about sexual violence prevention because the more aware society is on this topic, and the higher the chances of intervention become, the more successful we will be in putting an end to sexual violence.