CONTENT WARNING: This story contains detailed description of sexual assault.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, there is help available. At TCU, call the 24/7 confidential counseling helpline at 817-257-7233 or contact Confidential Advocate Ms. Leah Carnahan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 817-257-5225. You can also call the national sexual assault hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
Hello! My name is Martin Vershel, writer of the Girl, For Real column! Today I am with the leadership of It’s On Us, an organization to build a movement to combat sexual violence, educate and raise awareness on campus, and provide resources for those affected: President Mackenzi Abbott, Vice President Liza Bilich, and Social Media Chair Kendall McCarthy! What’s up?
How are y’all doing?
ALL: Pretty good!
To start things off, tell me a little bit about your favorite part of the mission and events for It’s On Us?
Mackenzi: My favorite part of the It's On Us mission is the inclusivity of it. We work to bring awareness AND intervention. The combination of education and prevention is essential. Plus, sexual assault affects so many different groups at different rates and has so many different impacts on everything like mental health and policy.
Liza: Same! My favorite part is that we have created a safe space on campus for survivors to feel supported and engaged with the community. I think it speaks wonders for people to be able to feel comfortable sharing their stories and engaging with an organization they can trust. I love the events that It’s On Us puts on because not only are we creating a safe space, we are creating an environment that allows people to feel supported and express their support for survivors.
Kendall: For me, my favorite part of It's On Us is being able to connect people with resources. Often we'll be tabling and we'll have people come up and hear what we're about and be like "Yeah, something like this happened to me." We're able to connect them with confidential resources and welcome them into our organization so that they can connect with other survivors and advocates. I also love how close our executive team is! We really are like a little family and I'm so blessed to know these women.
Awesome! Now tell me, what got y’all into It's On Us in the first place?
Liza: As a graduating senior, I wanted to get involved with an organization this year I could help leave a legacy for. As It’s On Us was somewhat new to campus, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to have a leadership position and share my voice. Also, I am a Women and Gender Studies minor and sexual assault is an issue I feel very passionate about. I love helping women and all people in any way possible, as well as raising awareness for a cause so many are impacted by in college.
Kendall: I am lucky enough to not be a survivor myself, but I know far too many. Becoming a member and then very quickly an officer of It's On Us has given me a platform like no other, so that I can let people know that: 1. they're not alone if they have experienced sexual assault and 2. that there are resources out there to help them, right here on campus. I run our social media and I love sharing graphics from other organizations as well as answering DMs about how to get involved.
Can any of you speak to the status of TCU's prevention and support for sexual violence victims?
Mackenzi: I think that TCU has a long way to go to truly support survivors and prevent assaults on a big scale on campus. But I think resources like the CARE office and student-led initiatives, like It's On Us, are the key to making moves to support survivors, and eventually grow prevention work into an integrated part of the whole university.
Truly wonderful! Alright last question, for our readers, what are some ways that they can individually help create a safer environment at TCU?
Mackenzi: Creating a safer environment is easier than you may think. A couple of simple steps to take? One: Listen to and believe survivors. Listen to them and help them feel validated and supported in their healing process. Two: Educate yourself and learn bystander intervention. There are lots of ways to intervene, but always make sure you're keeping yourself and the others in the situation safe. My go-to move is if I see someone in an uncomfortable position, I pretend to know one of them, and ask them to run to the bathroom with me!
Liza: As for creating a safer environment on TCU’s campus, I think getting involved in an organization like It’s On Us is a great place to start. In addition, creating safe spaces where victims and survivors feel comfortable sharing their stories is very important. Feeling supported, loved, and recognized is all anyone ever wants. Individually, I think students can come together and acknowledge that sexual assault is a prevalent issue on college campuses, including here at TCU; this would be the first step towards making a change and creating a safer environment on campus for students to call home.
Kendall: Be an active bystander. Kenzi actually wrote an amazing article for Her Campus on this earlier this week, but just being the one to get the vulnerable person out of the situation can do so much. Of course, we don't want people to be in uncomfortable situations in the first place. To combat this, we can all do a little in our personal circles to combat the sexualization and objectifying of women. Especially men-- I know you talk about hot girls with each other, but be conscious of the language you're using, especially when it comes to sex. One thing I've learned from Leah Carnahan at the TCU CARE office is that all too often, the language we use to describe sex (bang, get some, do it) is either violent or objectifying or both. Be conscious of that and start having those conversations, like why do we say that about a person?
Thank you all so much for joining us today, and I wish you all the best in the future! If you would like to share your voice in an interview, email email@example.com!