Community involvement is crucial to prevention of sexual violence

By Kassidy Curry/[email protected]
Arts Editor

On Feb. 8, President Obama made an announcement during the Grammy’s to highlight the national sexual assault awareness campaign, “It’s On Us.” This national involvement helps plant the seed within smaller communities in order to make changes towards safety.

The campaign was launched in Sept. 2014 and has featured various celebrity voices including those of Jonn Hamm and Kerry Washington. Obama took air time during the Grammy’s to bring attention to this campaign. He stated, “Together we can change our culture for the better by ending violence against women and girls.” He focused on the responsibility that each citizen has, as well as the power of public figures, to both change and discuss the issues of sexual violence.

The effect that Obama’s words will have on the people of the U.S. is a much different effect than that of a community group. However, both play crucial roles.

“When the president of the United States stands up and gives attention to something, people are listening in a different way,” said MCTC women’s studies professor Sharon Fodness.

Separate from the campaigns and the community support, though, is the rare bluntness of such a subject, especially from the President of the United States. This type of message should encourage discussion and help these sensitive issues become less taboo. Discussion of these issues can also further support the stories of victims and can provide a safer environment for victims to speak up and report assault.

“I think that local action in a community level is so important,” said Fodness. “And getting national awareness is major icing on the cake.”

The Green Dot community on campus is one which speaks up against violence, including sexually oriented violence.

However important discussion is, we should approach such issues in a delicate manner. Sexual assault and violence can be a very emotionally heavy and damaging experience and it should be acknowledged that some, if not most, will feel very sensitive about their past. But to be able to provide a safe and inviting space so that people may choose to speak about these issues is very important. Not only can speaking about it help further prevention, but also to help relieve at least some of the pain that victims may feel. But of course, nobody, by any means, should be forced or pressured to share their painful experience.

“I think those who are able to should work to find the courage to tell their stories more honestly,” said Fodness. “We need to hear stories that document how it feels to be harassed, or that rape is really not just sex, or the racist joke actually hurts. We need to find more ways to support people in saying that.”

The importance of the “It’s On Us” campaign lies within the name. It’s on us to create community involvement. It’s on us to look out for the safety of others. To not support aggressiveness. To not turn a blind eye. To respect and provide support to victims of sexual assault. It’s on us to teach others, both male and female, to respect each other and refrain from violence. It seems this campaign, though on a national level, aims to inspire and support  community involvement. Though the influence of national awareness can be crucial, the responsibility to provide support and help prevention lies on a community level.