Students: Sexual assault awareness ‘is on us’

Students: Sexual assault awareness ‘is on us’

Six Heidelberg student leaders nominated to attend a statewide summit last week on raising awareness and prevention of campus sexual assault are not letting the conversation end there.

Erica Dame, Julie Hild, Gaby Poliseno, Colin Higgins, Margaret Bowers and Bethany Beaver, accompanied by John Sharp, director of counseling and disabilities, attended the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s “Generation IX: Our Time. Our Power. Our Voices” summit last week. The first-of-its-kind summit was part of Ohio’s “Changing Campus Culture” initiative – the nation’s first comprehensive state collaboration to eliminate sexual violence on college campuses.

Returning from the daylong event that brought together students from other campuses across Ohio, the ‘Berg students came back more educated, energized and ready to lead a student awareness campaign.

“For me, it was really encouraging to hear what other schools are doing and strengthen the idea that we’re all working toward a common goal,” said Gaby, a senior who hopes to one day work as a counselor. “It was exciting to see so many men there because they’re often left out of the conversation, and cool to see people addressing sexual assault as a problem that is happening.”

Julie agreed. “I think the biggest thing I pulled from this is that although I knew sexual assault and domestic violence are big problems, I didn’t realize how big because no one talks about it. We heard statistics all day about the types of people who are assaulted and who assault. Anyone can be a perpetrator and anyone can be a victim.”

ODHE launched the “Changing Campus Culture” initiative a year ago to support the work of all of Ohio’s colleges and universities to end sexual violence. Heidelberg has been a participant since the beginning.

For John, the summit was a reminder about “the significant effect a campus can have on a sexual assault incident, both positive and negative.”

We are committed to fostering an environment here at Heidelberg where victims and survivors can feel comfortable and supported.

All of the students agreed it was valuable and eye-opening to hear the positive, yet different steps being taken on other campuses, and creative ways Heidelberg can push forward in its efforts to raise awareness and decrease sexual violence on campus. “I realized how easy it can be and how open people can be to progress,” Colin said.

Following the summit, the students are taking matters into their own hands. They’re actively involved in planning – along with faculty and staff – a series of ongoing activities and events in line with President Obama’s “It’s On Us” initiative to put an end to sexual assault on college campuses.

They’ve taken the intent of the “It’s On Us” campaign to heart, making a personal commitment to be part of the solution to end campus sexual violence by becoming involved – alongside faculty and staff -- in planning a series of events that will launch next year around the overarching theme of sexual assault awareness and prevention.

We hope this will be the start of something the students can sustain, in collaboration with faculty and staff.

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