By: Allee Feuerman
Whether it’s playing checkers in the Midtown Student Center or admiring the stars in the Westside Observatory and Planetarium, it’s easy for students to find something they love through one of WCSU’s 80 on-campus organizations. One organization in particular is creating some positive buzz around the university.
The Western Connecticut State University chapter of It’s On Us, a nationwide organization created during the Obama-Biden administration to provide support for sexual and domestic abuse survivors and encourage them to speak up, will host their first event of the semester, in conjunction with Take Action Week, on Oct. 22. Members of It’s On Us will have booths set up in both the Midtown Student Center and Westside Campus Center to encourage students to sign a pledge to “commit to helping create a culture of consent, bystander intervention and survivor support.” Students who sign the pledge will be entered into a drawing to win a $100 Amazon gift card.
The organization was originally designed to combat sexual assault on college campuses by providing prevention education to young men and women, but it has grown into something much larger. According to the It’s On Us campaign website, over 440,000 students have signed their nationwide pledge.
Casey Frisbie, the president of the WCSU chapter of It’s On Us, invites all students to join the movement and get involved on campus. She said that while the club “advocates for sexual assault and domestic abuse survivors, it’s more about educating people on not being a bystander and how to jump in if something were to happen.”
Joining It’s On Us is a commitment to helping the lives of others, but you don’t necessarily have to be a part of the club to get involved.
“I know it’s really hard for people to join a club like this, especially because its difficult to put yourself out there in this way,” Frisbie said. “You can get backlash. I’ve had people say ‘Oh I don’t want to do that, because that just seems too political for me.’”
Sexual assault is a topic that some still consider taboo, so the organization strives to provide a safe place for people to share their stories, become more aware of the problem and educate others about sexual abuse on college campuses.
“We want to make it known that it actually does happen at WestConn even though there are only 5,000 undergraduates,” said Frisbie. “Just because we are a small school and only have six dorms doesn’t really mean anything–it’s still happening here and people should be able to feel comfortable speaking about it.”
It’s On Us meets every Tuesday at 4 p.m. in Room 211 of the Westside Campus Center to discuss ideas for future programs that will encourage non-members to get involved. Members of the organization will be hosting events throughout the semester and inviting students to sign the nationwide pledge.
Last year, It’s On Us hosted a gallery event, where students were able to submit art that expressed themes like sexual assault, abuse, depression, and women’s rights. The artwork was displayed in the Ballroom of the Westside Campus Center.
The treasurer of the organization, Cara Byrne, was impressed with the turn out. “We had over 200 people come and experience all the pieces,” she said, believing “it was the perfect opportunity for people to express their experiences from sexual assault to domestic violence in an art form of their choice.”
Olivia Geiger, a member of the club who participated in the event, felt the gallery had a huge impact on her. “My poem was about my experience with sexual assault that I never truly spoke of,” she said. “But as I emailed it over from Italy I felt this sort of freedom enter my body because I didn’t have to be silent anymore.”
“Our main focus this year,” Frisbie said, “is trying to recruit more men, because I want it to be a super diverse group.” Currently, the organization only has three male members, and the entirety of the executive board is female. “The whole point of the club is to advocate for diversity and make sure everyone knows that sexual assault is not just against women, but men too.”
It’s On Us is open to new members with fresh ideas on how to spread awareness. If you’re looking to be a part of an on-campus organization and want to make an impact on the community, you can contact them via their facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/wcsuitsonus/.