We've all heard the statistics: 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are likely to be sexually assaulted while in college. 90% of the time, the victim will know the perpetrator. Every week there's a new headline with a new heartbreaking story.
After two former football players were indicted for the sexual assault of a woman in her dorm, the students at University of Texas (UT) at Austin decided they couldn't allow this culture of silence and fear to continue — not on their campus.
So they rallied together to collaborate with the school's sexual assault counseling resource to create a student-led organization “Not On My Campus,” dedicated to promoting a "stern," no-nonsense, zero tolerance policy on sexual assault and opening up conversations about the issue, said Ellen Cocanougher, one of the club's organizers.
The students also drafted a pledge that their classmates can sign online. With their signature, students promise to “break the silence” surrounding sexual assault. It also asks that they collaborate with awareness and safety resources, support survivors, refuse to be just a bystander and, of course, to always ask for explicit consent before engaging in sexual activity.
There’s no gray area in the pledge or anywhere else in this campaign: enthusiastic consent is key. “Sexual assault is any sexual activity without consent,” the message above the pledge says. “UT gets consent."
So far, the pledge has 545 signatures.
Though the group has only been on campus for two days, it’s already making an impact: Getting almost 1000 likes on Facebook, 100 instagram posts, 300 retweets and formal endorsements from the likes of Olympic decathlete Trey Hardee and former UT Football Coach Mack Brown.
On Twitter and Instagram, the group has used the hashtag #NotOnMyCampusUT to support the cause, flooding streams with photos of student groups (fraternities and sports teams included) with the words “Not On My Campus” written on their hands, and challenging parts of the campus culture that perpetuates rape culture.
Cocanougher also says she's already heard from several students who feel "more comfortable and less alone" through seeing their classmates back the group.
Though they aren't affiliated with a larger organization, the "Not On My Campus" slogan has been used at other schools in the last few years. In the last few days alone, Cocanougher says she has heard from other student leaders — some at larger schools — asking how they can get the campaign started on their own campuses.
Much like UT, these students want to see a change, and they know they have to be an invested part of that.
"Just because we believe that every university should have a student led initiative to end sexual assault, we really wanted to get together to begin on ending the silence on the issue," Cocanougher said. "Whenever someone has experienced something like sexual assault, they want to know they have students their age backing them up on this. Students who maybe felt alone can now see that there are so many on this campus who are incredibly passionate about ending this cultural problem."