University teams up with junior college to combat sexual assault

From 1997 to 2013, women from ages 18 to 24 experienced higher rates of rape or sexual assault than any other age bracket, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Today, sexual assault is an issue receiving plenty of media attention with cases at universities nationwide. To help fight sexual assault Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College have partnered up in participating in the ‘It’s On Us’ initiative.

The ‘It’s On Us’ campaign is a nationwide public awareness and educational campaign started by the White House. Across the nation, universities, organizations, corporations and celebrities have all joined the campaign, according to Jesse Andrews, a title IX investigation specialist at Sonoma State University. “Both President Arminana here at Sonoma State and President Frank Chong of Santa Rosa Junior College have signed on and endorsed the institutions to support the campaign,” said Andrews.

The attention brought to the topic, thanks to both campuses, is intended to spreading awareness about the issue.

“When statistics show that one in five women and one in 16 men will be the victim of a sexual assault while in college, we have to continue to address the problem,” Andrews said. “It is going to take the efforts of everyone, from students, faculty, and staff to change the culture and raise awareness.”

At Sonoma State, there will be tabling and events throughout April to help promote Sexual Assault Awareness Month where students can learn more about ‘It’s On Us’, and take a pledge against sexual assault.

“There is also a social media component to the campaign using the hashtag #itsonussonoma,” said Andrews. “While the initiative is being rolled out from the institution, we want students to get behind it and find ways to get involved and promote it individually or within their clubs and organizations.”

Students are already supporting the efforts from the schools to help bring more support to the cause.

“It’s certainly an important topic especially on college campuses today,” said Sonoma State freshman Chris Doody. “It’s something you can see in the media frequently and it needs to be addressed.”

Students aren’t the only ones concerned with the coverage of this issue. Title IX Coordinator Joyce Suzuki recently told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that Sonoma State received 25 reports of sexual misconduct from August2015 to February.

“It doesn’t mean it’s happening more. It’s being reported more, and that’s a good thing,” Suzuki told the Press Democrat.

To help spread awareness and further the discussion of campus sexual assault, Sonoma State will be holding an event focusing on the campus and community response to sexual assault. The event is a panel discussion geared to address concerns and facilitate discussion among the audience. The panel, called ‘If It Happens to You,’ will be held in the Student Center Sonoma Valley room on April 21 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions and participate in a conversation about how the campus community can best respond to sexual violence,” said Andrews. “Panelists include representatives from Sonoma County rape crisis, trauma and healing nonprofit Verity, as well as from Sonoma State Police Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, and Title IX office.”