Stopping sexual violence is ‘On Us’ in this ‘Week of Action’ at UW-River Falls
Freshman agricultural marketing communications major Madeline Mielke gets her free It's On Us shirt from a volunteer with the It's On Us campaign in the University Center, Wednesday, Oct. 25. (Photo by Tori Schneider/Student Voice)
“I put my trust in the wrong guy,” said Anja Gridley, the Student Government Association’s director of marketing and outreach. “I woke up the next morning, and I just didn’t know what to do.”
Gridley, who survived a rape on campus last year, draws on that experience to advocate for other survivors. She is deeply involved in the Week of Action, an event that raises awareness for sexual violence on campus.
This semester’s Week of Action will be different from events in the past by highlighting the resources available to students, not only on campus, but also in the River Falls community, with professionals from these resources being featured throughout the week.
UW-River Falls counseling and health services and the local Turningpoint organization, which provides support and services for survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence, will be the featured campus resources.
When she was finally ready to report what had happened to her, Gridley went to the campus counseling services, who reached out to Turningpoint. Turningpoint then helped Gridley in reporting her assault to the UWRF police. Gridley cites her personal experiences with sexual violence as the main reason she is very invested in the It’s On Us campaign on campus.
Her goal, she said, is to help make other students on campus aware of all the help that is out there for them and that they are not alone. When she finally told her roommates and campus counseling about what had happened, she received a tremendous amount of love and support. This response allowed her to start the process of forgiving her attacker and moving past the assault.
“Secrets make you sick,” she said, “being open brings healing and creates a community of supporters.”
UWRF’s Week of Action aims to bring increased awareness and education to the issue of sexual violence on campus through this year’s It’s On Us campaign. The event aims to evolve the conversation from sexual violence survivors sharing their stories to instead teaching people what they can do about the issues of sexual violence and harassment. New to the event this year is the addition of educating people on intimate partner violence which can often happen as people begin to enter into more serious relationships during their formative college years.
SGA’s student affairs director, Temi Abiodun, said that a main focus of this year’s Week of Action is educating the large freshman class about sexual violence and intimate partner violence on campus. Abiodun wants to better educate these freshmen early in their college career to be aware that sexual violence happens on campus, recognize it when it does happen, to do what they can to prevent it and know how to help the survivors.
She also wants to make sure that UWRF freshmen are able to use the It’s On Us sexual violence education, which is often new information to them, for their next four or more years on campus.
Unlike previous years, the Week of Action will only be held during the fall semester, said JJ Knapp, the SGA inclusivity director. Relying more on campus and community resources, this year’s Week of Action includes no outside speakers.
“I’m really big on pushing education,” Knapp said. “I think that the It’s On Us campaign does a really good job promoting and presenting educational materials for students that they have a chance to learn how to recognize warning signs.”
Samantha Mitra, vice president of the Student Feminist Organization, is worried that too much attention is on saving money and increasing the amount of free stuff available to students and not enough about focusing on the issues of the It’s On Us event. She is concerned that this semester’s Week of Action will draw less of a crowd, because she says it is a smaller and less-promoted event than previous years.
Mitra is acutely aware of how important of a topic sexual violence is, because she and almost all of her friends have experienced a form of sexual harassment or violence, she said. She and other members of the Student Feminist Organization will be helping with “The Hunting Ground” documentary showing, but noted that in the past her organization had a much bigger role in volunteering during the Week of Action. Mitra hopes that this semester’s It’s On Us event will help to remedy a general lack of knowledge that she says so many people have about sexual violence.
The Week of Action is now only taking place during the fall semester because of a funding pool of only $35,000, down from over $50,000 last year. This has led SGA President Abby Wendt and Vice President Kaylee Kildahl to look into doing “a day in the spring to recapture the It’s On Us, because this happens all the time and we have to keep it in our minds,” Wendt said.
The Week of Action began on Oct. 23 with a table in the University Center displaying campus resources available to students and then a showing of “The Hunting Ground,” with speakers to follow. Oct. 26 is the last day of the It’s On Us event, which concludes with a round table discussion of campus and community experts, including professors who will be talking about sexual assault and intimate partner violence awareness.