It’s on Us

By Payton Williams

From April 1—11, Cameron University hosted the Annual “It’s On Us” campaign, a series of events devoted to spreading awareness of and preventing sexual assault.

Inclusion and Student Success Coordinator and Title IX Investigator Olivia Polynice coordinated the campaign and its events on campus.

She said a large part of her job on campus as a Title IX investigator is talking to students who have personally dealt with issues of sexual assault and domestic violence.

This is the third year that Cameron has hosted the “It’s On Us” campaign, and Polynice said she used the opportunity to bring a new focus to some of the events.

“This year, I wanted to focus much more on the education side of things,” Polynice said. “Like, ‘let’s focus on verbiage,’ or ‘let’s focus on the continuum of harm,’ ‘let’s focus on fixing our terminology,’ and get rid of antiquated terminology and that sort of thing.”

While the first official event for the campaign happened on April 1, the actual kick-off event for the campaign took place that Tuesday, with a keynote speech from social activist Beverly Gooden. Gooden, who is perhaps best known for creating the “Why I Stayed” hashtag on Twitter in 2014, titled her keynote speech, “Why I Stayed: The Complexity of Domestic Violence.”

In the speech, Gooden drew from her experience as a domestic violence survivor and sought to explain the social and psychological complexity of domestic violence, as well as to speak out against the widespread trend of victim blaming.

During the two weeks of the campaign, various organizations offered events both on campus and off—each with a separate focus— but all fitting under the wider umbrella of sexual assault awareness and prevention.

The first of these events was a roundtable discussion in the Executive Boardroom of the McMahon Centennial Complex.

The discussion, titled “Snacks and Chats: Sexual Violence in the Media,” dealt with how sexual assault is presented in the media and how it relates to our behavior in the real world.

 During the discussion, several students discussed a range of issues related to media representation of sexual violence, including the representation of women of color as sex objects and the lack of representation and awareness of the transgender community in media.

Some of the events that took place during the campaign related more to the science of sexuality and safe sex in general, such as the Healthy Sex Fair on April 9 in the Buddy Green room of the McMahon Centennial Complex.

The Healthy Sex Fair—coordinated by the Student Wellness Center—consisted of several cardboard poster presentations on human sexuality, sex-related games and trivia quizzes and a table that presented students who attended with free cookies and condoms.

The posters presented a range of information about the importance of consent, the dangers of pornography addiction and the importance of safe sex. One table presented students with an array of stuffed plush representations of various STDs, along with cardboard tags containing information about them.

The Director for the Student Wellness Center, Jill Melrose, said the event had grown over the years.

“We had a flood, so some of [the presentations] got wet,” Melrose said. “But we started with maybe half of the presentations we have now.”

The Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention (SHARP) organization based in Fort Sill also helped coordinate an event.

SHARP presented “Sextortion: Coercion, Blackmail and Retaliation Online” along with two other organizations, The Fort Sill CID and The Red Cord.

The presentation dealt with the importance of avoiding posting sexually explicit information about oneself online and made particular mention of sexual extortion and human trafficking, as well as other dangers of sexuality and the internet.

The participation of The Red Cord organization this year was a new addition to the campaign. The Red Cord is an organization that deals with the problem of human trafficking, an issue that has been talked about a lot in Lawton and throughout the nation over the last few years.

 Polynice said the organization’s involvement was paramount.

“I was so glad that they talked about the signs,” Polynice said. “It’s one of those issues in our country that you just don’t see it all the time, like, with drugs, you can touch it, you can see it, and with guns, you can touch it, you can see it, but human trafficking is a bit more silent.”

The central focus of most of the events in the “It’s On Us” campaign is to empower victims of sexual assault and violence to come forward, and to tell their stories, and Polynice spoke a bit about how these events help people to feel confident and move forward.

“I had a student who we had dealt with a matter some years back,” Polynice said, “and she came to me after Mrs. Gooden’s speech, and she said to me how proud she was to wear her ‘It’s On Us’ shirt, because when she was wearing her shirt, and she came to the event, she felt empowered.”

If you or someone you know has experienced violence, please contact any of these resources:

Cameron University Student Wellness Center: (580) 581-6725 Cameron University Public Safety: (580) 581-2237 Cameron University Title IX Coordinator: (580) 581-6712 Cameron University Office of Student Development: (580) 581-2209

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