It’s On Us: Athletes Campaign to Stop Sexual Violence

Cherokee Washington, Sports Reporter

In September of 2014, President Barack Obama launched the “It’s On Us” initiative as a nationwide attempt to end sexual assault violence on college campuses. In short, the campaign aims at making a national change in the way individuals can approach and hopefully eliminate these incidents of sexual and non-consensual violence through various tools and education on sexual assault prevention.

Obama’s vision is a hopeful solution to a global problem that has teetered on the edge of success as colleges around the country have taken on It’s On Us, or IOS, as campus-wide projects. On the official IOS website, visitors are encouraged to join the battle against sexual assault by taking a pledge of solidarity with the cause.

Though the initiative is a direct call to action for all college students, college athletes have begun to lead the charge as clear, strong and audible voices for IOS. Last year, NCAA launched the IOS video contest in which colleges around the nation were asked to submit It’s On Us video campaigns in order to spread awareness on their own campuses in a collective fashion. Though SUNY Oneonta won the Division III category for the contest, the Whitman SAAC (Student Athletic Advisory Committee) coalition submitted its own video featuring athletes such as senior swimmer Sean Terada, 2015 tennis alumna Jenna Dobrin and fellow 2015 basketball graduate Ege Mala.

When asked about his take on IOS, swimmer and SAAC co-president Sean Terada stated, “As an athlete and member of the Whitman community, I think It’s On Us is a campaign that aligns with our values as agents of change and people who actually want to do something to create a better community.”

In light of recent events on campus involving drugging, Terada’s mentioning of IOS aligning with Whitman’s values is extremely important and powerful. Terada continued on to say, “It’s On Us puts emphasis on the fact that we are in control of our own actions and that we actually have to change something ourselves in order to fix the issue, which I think is a mindset that many athletes can resonate with. Because it may resonate with athletes more, we thought that SAAC would be a good place to start so we can empower athletes and eventually spread the campaign throughout the entire Whitman community since we have such a presence on campus.”

Along with Terada, several athletes who have taken on leadership roles in SAAC have similar thoughts on the matter. Fellow athlete and SAAC co-president Allie Wallin further stated, “The NCAA is a partner of the IOS, and athletic programs across the country have taken on the initiative to spread awareness on their campuses. Just as other colleges have done, our SAAC group made an It’s On Us video to promote the initiative. You can find the video on the athletics web page.”

There are many future initiatives that Whitman will take to stay involved with IOU, such as a Take Action Week in the spring and the distribution of wristbands. Wallin added, “As an athlete and member of the Whitman community, I believe it is our job to take on this initiative because we are leaders within the community. Additionally, this is something that all students can be a part of, not just student athletes.”

The pledge on the It’s On US website outlines the goals as “to recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault. To identify situations in which sexual assault may occur. To intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. To create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.”

As expected, many Whitman athletes and non-athletes have taken a liking to this campaign as a testament to our value on bodily safety on our campus. Basketball senior Alysse Ketner emphasizes that “the idea behind the campaign is to take the pledge to prevent sexual assault, saying that it is our responsibility to look out for each other. SAAC’s role is to spread the word, plan events, and get more people to ‘take the pledge.’ The women’s basketball team has always had the idea to lookout for each other and others so ‘It’s On Us’ falls right in line with our team culture.”

Though Ketner, Wallin and Terada are currently some of the central voices and agents of Whitman’s involvement in It’s On Us, SAAC’s mission is to eventually involve the whole of the Whitman campus.