ISS defines success for “It’s on us” campaign

By Charlotte Collins

The Illinois Student Senate is looking to gauge the success of efforts to open dialogue on sexual assault: something that cannot be chalked up to numbers.

It’s On Us, a national campaign, endorsed and advertised by public figures ranging from President Barack Obama to Snapchat, aims to raise awareness for sexual assault and promotes the notion of a community responsibility to prevent sexual assault.

ISS began its own campaign at the beginning of the school year, and its efforts have been recognized by the White House. Several PSAs have been released featuring campus leaders, such as Chancellor Phyllis Wise, basketball coach John Groce and Fighting Illini athletes.

Vice President-Internal Sarah Hochman said she believes a large social media presence and national recognition will bring the topic to the forefront and challenge students to be more than bystanders and to refrain from victim-blaming.

“My main focus in how we’re going to know that we met our goal is the nationally highlighted success,” Hochman said. “We’ve made the White House newsletter multiple times for being a leader in this campaign, not just among Illinois students knowing what’s going on, but really around the country.”

While ISS does have some quantifiable evidence of having spread the It’s On Us message, such as YouTube views and approximately 500 pledges, they plan to get more face-to-face contact with students in the months to come.

Vice President-External Matt Hill said ISS will be branching out to get in touch with students and has partnered with the Women’s Resources Center to plan a screening of the film “The Hunting Ground.” The movie focuses on rape culture in a university environment in honor of April standing as national Sexual Assault Awareness month.

In February, ISS is also planning to host a question-and-answer session through Twitter, regarding the mission of the campaign and tips on how to prevent sexual assault. If students tweet to the student senate, they can receive a free It’s On Us t-shirt.

Assistant Director of the Women’s Resources Center Molly McLay looks forward to seeing results around campus in the form of dialogue and sexual assault awareness being a part of everyday conversations.

“This is a community effort, and we want to hear more people talking about the issue,” said McLay. “When we see people outside of the Women’s Resource Center, and the usual groups that work on these issues — like this, FYCARE, the Counseling Center, the police department — when we see groups from outside of those circles start to talk about it more, that is showing that campaigns like this are working. It can’t just be the work of a prevention advocate, it needs to be the work of everyone.”

Hochman said that while the few quantifiable indicators of success such as pledges and PSA views are the most obvious markers of the campaign having reached its goal, she hopes to generate any amount of change in the way students think about sexual assault and bring attention to a serious topic that isn’t always a part of common conversation.

“I think we live in this culture and on this campus where things like this happen every day and are not being reported, addressed, not being talked about,” said Hochman. “I think even by creating this small amount of change, we’re choosing to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”

Charlotte can be reached at [email protected].