"Statistically speaking, one in four women will be survivors of sexual assault. This means, that in this very auditorium, almost every single one of you knows someone who has been sexually assaulted." Marc Rich of interACT stated to a student audience at Stanford University.
Sexual assault is real. It's on my campus, it's on your campus, and it's time to take action. When we chose to attend our respective universities, we chose them as the places where we could define our experiences as adults. We chose them, knowing that these were the worlds in which we could learn and forge new relationships, explore our passions, and find out who we truly are. We chose to become a part of our universities' cultures, and ultimately their histories, for all to look back upon and examine.
As students, we work hard. We are ambitious, and time is always of the essence. We must remember, however, that we are human beings, not human doings. In our communities -- local, national, international -- we need to look out for each other. We need to say something. We need to do something. We have a responsibility to respect the friends, the classmates, the strangers, and the people who surround us every day. Because, with every judgment or decision we make, for every action we take or choose not to take, an individual's life can change irreversibly.
Sexual assault is not just a crime; it is a gross violation of our human rights. As the conversation about sexual violence ignites on the national platform, small-scale, university-focused efforts are the key to impacting sustainable change. It will take transparency, enforcement, public awareness, and community support to combat this longstanding issue. Ultimately, taking action to bring the community together is the biggest, most impactful intervention, and we all have a role to play. We must all step up to take charge of different initiatives in a creative manner at our respective universities.
This past Friday, November 14, the "Stanford, It's On Us: We Will Not Standby" theater program, one of the many national events in the "It's On Us" campaign, sought to empower students through an interactive theater performance about bystander intervention featuring the renowned theatre troupe interACT from California State University Long Beach. Students arrived together in excited and chatty groups of ten or more. Over 250 students signed in prior to the program, and participation during was enthusiastic. Learning how to intervene in sexual assault situations in theory sounds simple -- direct, delegate, distract -- yet in practice, it's not always so clear. interACT demonstrated to students the nuances of these complex situations by allowing them to perform their interventions on stage alongside the trained actors.
Prevention education for sexual assault is complicated. Creative, interactive programs such as these have the potential to make a difference. So I encourage you, fellow students, to be aware of your power. Be bold. Try something new. One thing's for sure--silence is not the answer.
For more information about the It's On Us campaign, please see http://itsonus.org/.