Temple takes on sexual assault in Harrisburg

University officials and TSG members will go to the Pennsylvania Capitol for an “It’s on Us” conference with Gov. Tom Wolf.

An “It’s On Us” press conference with Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera will be held on Wednesday, and Wolf extended a special invitation to Temple students, staff and faculty to attend.

The university will provide 100 interested students with excused absences and free transportation for a trip to the Capitol at 10 a.m., returning at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The hearing begins at 1:30 p.m.

The It’s On Us campaign was launched by former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. It encourages students to actively combat sexual assault, rape and rape culture on college campuses.

Legislation aimed at enhancing college and universities’ efforts to eradicate sexual assault and rape will be introduced at Wednesday’s press conference.

Senior Adviser to the President for Compliance Valerie Harrison will accompany students to Harrisburg alongside Senior Adviser to the President for Government Relations George Kenney, who was formerly a state representative for more than two decades.

It’s On Us focuses on educating students about consent, increasing bystander intervention and providing survivors of sexual assault with support. Harrison said Pennsylvania was the first state to sign on to the initiative, and Temple partnered with Wolf to be active and engaged throughout the whole process.

Student Body President Tyrell Mann-Barnes will deliver a speech about combating sexual assault at the press conference. Mann-Barnes is also the vice president of the student organization Student Activists Against Sexual Assault.

Following the press conference, students will have the opportunity to meet university trustee and Lt. Gov. Mike Stack and visit the floor where the General Assembly meets.

“This is a topic that we want more students to engage in,” Mann-Barnes said. “This is something that we should all be engaged with so that we can all prevent it from happening in the future in a process of supporting, empowering and listening to survivors.”

“[Temple has] reorganized and centralized and strengthened our efforts around eliminating sexual misconduct in all forms,” Harrison said.

She added Temple has launched greater efforts to eliminate barriers to reporting incidents. Students can now report sexual assaults online with the option of remaining anonymous. The university also provides 24-hour transportation, counseling and medical assistance to survivors of sexual assault. Women Organized Against Rape, a sexual assault response and support unit based on Main Campus, also has a 24-hour hotline to report or discuss a sexual assault. WOAR’s hotline can be reached at 215-985-3333.

Efforts are also being made to make marketing, promotional materials and education regarding rape and sexual assault more inclusive to the whole student body. This will be done by incorporating people of different races and genders, making it more diverse.

Following the press conference, Temple Student Government will hold events from Sept. 11-15 with the intention of educating students about sexual violence and encouraging them to condemn it. The week will include one event about preventing sexual assault per day, like giving students training in bystander intervention and self-defense.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but Mann-Barnes said TSG finds it important to take an early, proactive stance against sexual violence on campus rather than a reactionary one.

“The majority of sexual assault reports take place within the first several months of a person’s time on campus,” Mann-Barnes said. “We wanted to make sure that when you first step foot on this campus…wherever you’re from, you realize that TSG, one of the largest organizations on campus, is taking a stand against rape culture in a very intentional and meaningful way.”

“Thousands of students that never would have known about this topic are going to have access to [education] and that means so much to me,” he added. “This is like my passion project.”

Students can sign up to attend the It’s On Us press conference through the Google Form shared on TSG’s social media pages.

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