The week of Oct 21 was the National “It’s On Us” Week of Action. By encouraging conversation through the varsity athletic community Whitman’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) used this national event to remind the Whitman community that it’s on us to prevent sexual violence . SAAC’s primary goal is to serve as a liaison between student-athletes and the administration to help create potential solutions for problems that may arise, as well as bringing the student-athlete community together.
For “It’s On Us” Week of Action, each varsity athletic team put together an action statement on how they, as a team, can help prevent sexual violence on campus. Those action statements helped serve SAAC’s social media campaign during “It’s On Us” Week, as many fellow athletes took to reposting and spreading awareness for sexual violence prevention.
Alex Izbiky, SAAC social media coordinator and previous SAAC president, said that the personal statements had a domino effect on social media.
“I saw lots of athletes who I follow personally reposting their team’s statements on to their own stories on Instagram,” Izbiky said. “With something as heavy as sexual violence, it can sometimes be hard to get people to engage with the topic because it is a difficult one, but I think these posts were accessible enough that lots of people were engaging and helping promote them through their own pages.”
“This is important because when they were doing that, the message we were hoping to spread was being promoted to another circle of people that SAAC alone would not have been able to reach,” he added.
Izbiky’s goal of spreading awareness was met by many members of varsity teams as they shared and reposted their team’s mission statements. With a campus as small as Whitman’s, it is definitely doable and very essential to spread information about sexual violence prevention.
“I think it’s important for all communities to take on initiatives preventing sexual violence because Whitman is such a tight knit community that we can all have a large impact when we work together to advance these ideas,” Izbiky said. “It is important to state our values if we want to live up to them.”
SAAC and Athletes for Consent Education (ACE) worked very closely to bring “It’s On Us” Week of Action to campus. The two groups came together to ensure that each varsity team provided a meaningful and impactful statement regarding sexual violence prevention. Each varsity team’s ACE representatives were asked to consult their teams to create a mission statement, having important conversations about consent in the process. These statements were meant to represent what is important to that specific team as well as open dialogue about encouraging strategic methods for sexual violence prevention.
ACE intern Olivia Engle said that she, along with fellow ACE intern Adam Reid, hope to expand the impact that varsity athletes have on encouraging consent talk on campus. She also hopes people who would like to get involved with ACE feel they can reach out and make a greater impact on campus.
“Adam and I really want to make ACE more present on campus and have more programming,” Engle said. “While we are not where we want to be, I think we have begun to restructure ACE in the right direction. I think I would want people to know that we are always trying to make this program better and love suggestions on how to do that. If they [people] are interested in getting involved or have ideas for us, they can definitely reach out to ACE representatives, or to Adam and me.”
Claire McCarthy, junior volleyball player and ACE representative, shared that her team stands wholeheartedly behind their mission statement.
“The education and prevention of sexual assault violence is important to Whitman volleyball because we value the mental, emotional and physical health of our friends, peers and community members,” McCarthy said. “We believe it is necessary to use our athletic platform to proactively intervene in situations and to create a safe environment for our community.”
McCarthy argues that consent is a difficult topic to deal with, and that keeping an eye out for friends and teammates is what everyone needs to do.
“Consent and safety are not complicated ideas. Looking out for one another is just the right thing to do,” McCarthy said. “If our team sees something that does not seem safe, we intervene.”