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University It’s On Us campaign changes focus after discussion with survivors

Alma+Mater+stands+near+the+Main+Quad+wearing+an+It%E2%80%99s+On+Us+campaign+shirt.
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University It’s On Us campaign changes focus after discussion with survivors

Alma Mater stands near the Main Quad wearing an It’s On Us campaign shirt.

Alma Mater stands near the Main Quad wearing an It’s On Us campaign shirt.

The Daily Illini File Photo

Alma Mater stands near the Main Quad wearing an It’s On Us campaign shirt.

The Daily Illini File Photo

The Daily Illini File Photo

Alma Mater stands near the Main Quad wearing an It’s On Us campaign shirt.

By Gillian Dunlop, Assistant News Editor

Widely viewed as a successful campaign against sexual assault nationwide, its strategy of bystander education has been brought into question by the Illinois Student Government during their meeting on March 15.

It’s On Us has garnered over 3,000 student signatures on the pledge against sexual assault since the campaign first came to the University in the fall of 2014.

When Bobby Knier, junior in LAS and author of the resolution, and Gabby Gendek, sophomore in Business and director of the senate, presented the It’s On Us initiative during the March 15 meeting, however, it was met with criticism mostly stemming from sexual assault survivors.

The initiative was designed to have as many students as possible sign the pledge against sexual assault. It required $967 dollars of student government funding to pay for It’s On Us t-shirts, stickers, water bottles and key chains for students who signed the pledge.

Senator Tara Chattoraj, junior in LAS, was particularly outspoken during the debate of the It’s On Us initiative.

“(The initiative) bothered me because it’s actually hurting people and it’s actually creating this very false image that we’re doing something,” Chattoraj said.

During the debate, Chattoraj referenced seeing her own rapist wearing an It’s On Us shirt around campus as an example of how the current approach of the campaign does not do what it intends to accomplish.

“(Seeing my rapist wearing the shirt) is the most shocking thing,” she said.

“It’s very jarring, because you did this yet you can hide behind this shirt and people think you’re this great person.”

Chattoraj was involved in It’s On Us her freshman year, shortly after being raped.

It was not until she saw her rapist wearing that shirt that she changed her mind on the power of the initiative.

“I saw my rapist in a shirt, and you realize everything you’ve worked really hard for means absolutely nothing and you take a step back and you’re just like, ‘This isn’t actually doing anything,’” she said.

Although the initiative was passed during the meeting, Student Body President Ron Lewis vetoed it later that night.

“It’s not the fact that (the authors) didn’t have the attention,” Lewis said.

“I just knew we were at a point where the next thing we did was going to be something really important and I think we could use the money to fund other (programs where there is discussion).”

Knier and Gendek took everything that was said during the debate into account and later presented another It’s On Us initiative during the March 29 meeting.

“We were taken aback by the amount of disdain for the resolution just because the It’s On Us committee has been on campus for two years, and before the resolution no one reached out to me as the committee chair personally,” Gendek said.

“We have taken those points and we’re going to work on it going forward.”

The new initiative is four discussion-based lunches that will be held with the Women’s Resource Center in order to educate students about sexual assault on campus and active bystander intervention.

“I really liked (the new resolution) a lot,” Lewis said.

“It’s geared towards helping the community and helping people actually understand what’s going on with sexual assault. We’re no longer going to do this on our own, and this is one of the first steps.”

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