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York College takes pledge in 'It's On Us PA' campaign to end sexual violence

January 29, 2016
The York College of Pennsylvania sign on main campus

About one in five women and one in 20 men will be affected by sexual violence during their college years – and that’s a statistic York College is pledging to change. Those staggering numbers, provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, has driven Governor Tom Wolf to call on colleges across the state to join the “It’s On Us” campaign to combat sexual violence.  

Governor Wolf officially announced Pennsylvania’s pledge to fight sexual violence on Friday, Jan. 29, at an event at Elizabethtown College, where he was joined by Kristin Avery from the national "It's On Us" Campaign, as well as Kristen Houser from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR).  

York College President Dr. Pamela Gunter-Smith joined the governor and many other college officials to pledge York College’s commitment to fighting sexual violence. 

"York College has a longstanding commitment to educating our campus about sexual assault and seeking ways to eradicate it from our community," Gunter-Smith said. "Our participation in 'It's On Us PA' will allow us to join with other institutions to enhance our collective and individual efforts to protect college students in Pennsylvania and across the nation."

“It’s On Us” was launched nationwide by President Barack Obama in 2014 to promote awareness, education, and bystander intervention to end sexual assault. With the launch of “It’s On Us PA” this month, Pennsylvania becomes the first state to launch its own campaign to engage college faculty, staff, students, and community leaders in the call to end sexual assault. 

In 2014, it’s estimated that 12,875 students who were enrolled in Pennsylvania colleges experienced sexual assault, according to the state Department of Education. In addition, about 62,396 girls ages 14 to 17 are assaulted each year in Pennsylvania – and more than 15,000 will drop out of school because of their victimization, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. 

The impact of these acts of violence results not only in an increased dropout rate, but lower GPAs, health issues related to PTSD and depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and a lifetime cost of $15.1 billion to help Pennsylvania females who experience victimization. 

To highlight its commitment to this statewide initiative, York College has pledged to take various steps. This year, all incoming students will complete the online course “Consent and Respect,” which encourages bystander intervention, as well as reporting of sexual assault and how to have a healthy relationship. 

Going forward, students will attend a program called “Sex Signals” each year to participate in interactive sessions that address sexual beliefs, behaviors and stereotypes. 

York College also conducted an assessment in the fall 2015 semester to interview campus community members and gauge their understanding of sexual violence on campus.  

The Sexual Assault Response Program, which meets regularly, plans to roll out a campus climate survey this spring to see where the college needs to enhance educational opportunities. The York College Athletics Department also has connected with the One Love Foundation to provide training workshops that educate people on relationship violence and how to work toward change. 

"We are thrilled to welcome Pennsylvania to this movement that is gaining traction at a critical time in our lives," said Kristin Avery, the national campaign manager of the “It's On Us” movement. “And we encourage everyone in Pennsylvania to join the leaders here today in spreading the message that it's on us, all of us, to stop sexual assault." 

How to get involved

To take the pledge to combat sexual violence on Pennsylvania campuses, visit the governor’s website (https://www.governor.pa.gov/its-on-us/) and then share your commitment on social media using #ItsOnUsPA

For more information 

York College's policy on Sexual Misconduct and Reporting Procedures can be read here and the Code of Conduct can be found here.  Students in crisis or those seeking help should use these emergency numbers as a resource.