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Students, White House prep for Week of Action

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Students, White House prep for Week of Action

Scene from

Scene from "What if Bears Killed one in five People?" PSA from College Humor, the White House and Generation Progress.

Scene from "What if Bears Killed one in five People?" PSA from College Humor, the White House and Generation Progress.

Scene from "What if Bears Killed one in five People?" PSA from College Humor, the White House and Generation Progress.

By Elizabeth Lepro / Assistant News Editor

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One day after Pitt launched a sexual violence awareness month, the White House It’s On Us campaign unrolled plans for next week’s national Week of Action.

During a White House press call Nov. 5, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett spoke about nationwide plans involving the It’s On Us campaign and the Week of Action, which begins Nov. 8. Next week, Jarrett said colleges will host more than 240 events, including pledge drives and panels, at 92 schools in 35 states.

The White House and Generation Progress launched the It’s On Us campaign to combat sexual violence on college campuses in September 2014. Pitt was one of the first 200 universities and colleges to join the campaign. More than 250,000 people have signed the It’s On Us pledge.

“The campaign has become a rallying cry inviting everyone to step up and engage because the solutions begin with us,” Jarrett said.
The campaign’s partners — students, activists, college administrators and media companies — according to Jarrett, are “all committed to ending the horrifying fact that one in five women are sexually assaulted during their college years.”

Pitt’s Week of Action, which the University announced Nov. 4, will include lectures, events and training sessions aimed at educating the campus community on sexual violence, relationship violence, sexual harassment and stalking.

Sharon George, a sophomore at Pitt, is on the National Student Advisory Committee for the It’s On Us campaign. She reports It’s On Us efforts, progress and ideas at Pitt to the Washington, D.C., It’s On Us office every month.

George said she applied for this position over the summer while interning at the Women’s Law Center in Philadelphia, a nonprofit organization that advocates for women’s rights through legal action.

George said the Week of Action and the It’s On Us campaign is important so that students understand exactly what qualifies as sexual assault.

“Honestly the basis for any social change is education,” George said. “The main thing that I’ve been seeing is that people don’t know they’ve been raped or what rape is.”

For the Week of Action, George coordinated independent events like the premiere of “Good Kids,” a play about the Stubenville rape case, with the national campaign.

One student-led event, which already coincided with the It’s On Us campaign beginning last year, is the It’s On Us paper chain.

Topher Hoffman, a third-year graduate student at Pitt who works in the Wellness Center, helped to start the It’s On Us chain last year.

The chain allows people to sign the pledge and add a colorful link in an ever-expanding chain of people dedicated to ending sexual assault. The chain, which began on I Heart Pitt day in October 2014, now has over 5,000 signatures and links, according to Hoffman.

“We chose a chain to show that our campus stands strong, together, against sexual assault,” Hoffman and Pitt alum Megan Crilly, who also created the paper chain, said last year.

Hoffman will bring the chain to events during the Week of Action, like the premiere of “Good Kids” on Nov. 11.

Since the launch of the campaign, Jarrett said Pitt and other universities have hosted more than 800 events on college campuses.

Spencer Griffin, the executive producer of College Humor, and Jake Johnson, the actor and comedian most famous for his role in the TV show “New Girl,” were also on the call to talk about their newest PSA, “What if Bears Killed One in Five People?”

Johnson, who also played “Lowery,” a Jurassic Park superfan in Jurassic World in June of this year, said he didn’t realize how prevalent sexual assault was on campuses.

“I think when I heard it was one in five college students that sickened me,” Johnson said. “My attitude toward the guys [changed], because I think there is this code that I know of as a bro that you kind of look the other way, protect each other.”

Johnson said when the White House reached out to him to star in a PSA about sexual assault, he wanted to contribute and bring in some of his real life friends, like actor and comedian Rob Riggle and director Max Winkler.

Johnson and Riggle starred in a comedic PSA about five men who are hanging out when they’re suddenly attacked by a bear.

“We realized if it was a bear, which is a ridiculous thing and a terrifying creature, it seems like a group of guys would do something about that,” Johnson said, adding that the same should be done for incidents of sexual assault.

In the It’s On Us national PSA, which College Humor will release during the Week of Action, Johnson tells Riggle to ignore the bear.

“I don’t think it’s going anywhere but I don’t know what to do about it, so I just ignore it,” Johnson says in the PSA. “But you know, it’s not going to eat all of us, it only eats one in five.”

Johnson said this campaign has presented a dialogue that shifts the responsibility from the victim to the people and community who see sexual violence is happening and do nothing to stop it.

Jarrett said college students have a responsibility to engage their peers and to take action against sexual assault.

“If there’s something going on upstairs in the fraternity, you have the check the person and you have to turn them in,” Jarrett said. “I think there has been a silent acceptance of this in our society, and that has to end because it is at an epidemic proportion.”

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Students, White House prep for Week of Action