Students: ‘It’s on us to prevent campus sexual violence.’

Nationwide statistics show that one in two women and one in five college-aged men experience some form of sexual violence.

After seeing a spike in sexual assaults during the fall semester, Southern Illinois University students formed a coalition to raise awareness of the problem.

From using grant money to upgrade campus lighting to increasing the police patrols on campus, the SIU administration has taken steps to improve campus safety. 

Graduate student Natalie Nash says the new lighting is an improvement, but more needs to be done.

“I felt very unsafe,” Nash says. “I felt unsafe for my undergrads that I teach. It just didn’t make me feel great about SIU.”

SIU freshman Kelly Meloy says there is only one way to reduce the number of sexual assaults on campus.

“It starts with the students,” Meloy says. “I feel like if the administration just tells us or keeps pounding things on us, it’s not a clear message.”

Nash says the message of the SIU It’s On Us coalition is very clear: Sexual assault victims should feel comfortable coming forward.

“It’s very important to use the word ‘rape’ when we’re talking about rape, and use ‘sexual assault’ when we talk about sexual assault so it doesn’t become ‘that thing that happened,’ and it’s taboo to talk about,” Nash says.

Interim Dean of Students Katherine Sermersheim says the school will give the students whatever they need to keep that conversation going.

“Our first and foremost is assisting students in accomplishing that goal with bystander training, poster campaigns,” Sermersheim says. “‘Consent is sexy’ is a campaign that we’ve assisted.”

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been touring the state to promote the Preventing Sexual Violence in Higher Education Act, which would provide victims with more advocacy support. For more information, click here.

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