“I pledge: To recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault. To identify situations in which sexual assault may occur. To intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given. To create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.”
Many Rhodes students are likely aware of the “It’s On Us” campaign by now, whether they passed the table promoting the campaign in the Rat, saw the flyers around campus, saw someone wearing the campaign’s t-shirt, or saw someone’s profile picture change to the “It’s On Us” logo. If you are reading this and you are not yet aware, keep reading—and join us all in contributing to a universal culture of consent.
The above quote, taken from the “It’s On Us” website (http://itsonus.org/#pledge), is being promoted nationwide by the organization to inform students of the prevalence of rape and sexual assault, but also to mobilize them. The common solution for sensitive or pressing issues seems to always be “education”—but what is education without mobilization? Does being informed correlate with change? Yes, it can; but only if people make that conscious choice themselves.
“It’s On Us” emphasizes the integrality of mobilization by further stating “This pledge is a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault. It is a promise not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be a part of the solution.” It is often so easy to simply voice support for a cause, to promote a cause through social media, even to write an article about it for an online magazine—and these verbal commitments are well-intentioned and genuine for the majority of people. However, these admirable commitments MUST be taken further.
One begins “not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be a part of the solution” by keeping their eyes and ears open. By listening, by observing, by asking questions, by reaching out, by declaring a stance and acting upon it. By never relenting in the conviction that:
- Sexual assault DOES occur, and it occurs more often than any of us would like to believe. We cannot sugarcoat it, and we cannot make excuses.
- It is your moral duty, ingrained in your humanity, to intervene when intervention is needed. We cannot simply assume that help is coming when helping is an inconvenience to ourselves.
- An environment of security, awareness, and overwhelming support MUST exist when it can be made to exist. Creating a culture of consent cannot occur overnight, unfortunately, and it is a sad reality that there are places in this world that are less conducive to creating a culture of consent than others. But there is much we can do here, at Rhodes, in our bubble—and we can break this bubble, too.
“It’s On Us” is not the first or the last organization to express these values. It is not the first or last organization to wake people up out of the trance that is the buzz of everyday life, or to change the sentiments of indifference and inattention in people because it’s not personally applicable. It’s one of many threads in an intricate tapestry, and at least for me, I’m finally beginning to see the big picture.