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Sex Stories

By Kait Scalisi, MPH

Did you know that this past week was It’s On Us Week of Action?

If you attend or work at a college or university, the answer is probably yes. If you’re involved in sexual health in practically any other way, it isn’t terribly surprising if you didn’t.

For those who are unfamiliar, It’s On Us Week is the next step in the White House’s strategy to end sexual violence on college campuses. The goal: to partner with colleges, universities, and a variety of organizations (e.g. NCAA, SnapChat, etc) to spread the word about the importance of everyone doing their part to prevent such violence. Over 200 schools joined the It’s On Us movement in September, leading to 130 events and 40 campus-created PSAs.

This is a great movement. It’s mobilizing students throughout the country, including athletes and members of Greek life, two key groups in this fight, to speak out about this issue. The PSAs featured people of all genders and race/ethnicities. Generation Progress, the group who is overseeing the entire It’s On Us campaign made some incredibly smart and strategic moves. These include:

  1. Partnering with Snapchat. Public health as a field is not always the most social media savvy. More and more we’re seeing organizations and schools get on board but in this case, the field’s reliance on data is holding it back. Meanwhile social platforms continue to evolve, Snapchat being one of the newest and most appealing to college students who are leaving Facebook and Twitter due to the invasion of the OPS (old persons). Props to Generation Progress for taking a very business approach to planning and meeting their target audience where they’re spending time.
  2. Partnering with the NCAA and SB Nation. Sports sports sports! Over the past few years we’ve seen numerous cases where the hero worship of sports stars has come crashing down in a blaze of sexual violence. SB Nation coordinated its social media efforts to reflect is relationship to the campaign and included a number of insightful pieces. My favorite piece acknowledges that fans can and should appreciate the beauty of the sports world without letting it blind them.

All that being said, there were some major disappointments of the week a well.

  1. The NCAA. Although the college sports association technically was a partner for the Week of Action, they did little to publicly show their support. None of their social profiles were changed to include the It’s On Us filter, there was no feature on the main page of their website, and they tweeted about the Week of Action exactly once. They certainly were not the most engaged partner, a move which implies this issue is still not that important to the college sports world for any reasons other than good PR.
  2. The lack of Greek Life buy-in. While many individual campuses’ Greek life participated in the Week of Action, there doesn’t seem to be be buy-in from the oversight councils. Individual chapters doing work is wonderful. Whole sorority and fraternity systems is even better.
  3. The continued disconnect among sex education, sexual health, and violence prevention. Where was Cosmo, Scarleteen, and Bedsider? Where were the PSAs on popular TV shows and Hulu? Perhaps such outlets were contacted and declined. However, in general these three fields tend to work in opposition to one another rather than supporting each other’s efforts during major campaigns like this. Obviously each area has its own unique agenda, target audience, etc. Nevertheless, each piece also supports the other. For example, more comprehensive sex education allows for more conversation around sex and also sexual health, decreasing the shame and stigma that It’s On Us is also working to limit. I’m not saying each group has to always talk about all the issues but during a campaign such as this week, it would allow for broader reach to audiences that may not have otherwise gotten involved. Almost any sex educator who works on a college campus can tell you a story about bearing witness to students’ stories of sexual assault. So though the connection between Sex Week and It’s On Us may not seem obvious at first, the underlying motivations and ideals are very similar. It would be nice to see that being acted out more overtly. And, for the record – sexual violence prevention organizations could also help out during major sexual health and sex education campaigns such as Get Yourself Tested.

None of this is to undermine the work of the White House or It’s On Us. Instead it’s a call for even more strategic thinking for future campaigns. What else do college stud nets do? Where are they spending their time? What are they reading? What makes them laugh? How can It’s On Us and all other sex-related campaigns hone their language and outreach strategies even more? The goal of course it to get broader attention for the campaign, including in places where it might be less likely found (e.g. more traditional or conservative schools).

I believe in progress, not perfection, and the this campaign certainly represents that. The very fact that the media, colleges, Greek Life, and more are openly discussing sexual violence is a positive step. By taking a stand and bringing sexual violence out into the open, It’s On Us is helping to reduce the shame and stigma survivors so often feel and create a cultural shift in how we think about responsibility and fault.

To learn more about the It’s On Us Campaign, click here.

Other Sexual Health News This Week

Rikers Island to Launch Unit for Transgender Inmates (New York Daily News)

State Can’t Make Sex Offenders Give Authorities Their Internet IDs (LA Times)

Judge Lifts Montana Same-Sex Marriage Ban (ABC FoxMontana)

More Women Getting Mastectomies They May Not Need (CBS News)

Olympic President Wants to Add Sexual Orientation to Non-Discrimination Policy (Think Progress)

Sex Ed Controversies in Gilbert, Tempe an Anomaly (AZ Central)

Important Dates

World AIDS Day, Dec 1. Click here to find events near you.

The following conferences have early registration deadlines in December. Click on each title for more information and to register.

National Conference on Sexual Assault and Violence, Feb 24-25, Berkley, CA.

The following conferences take place in November and December. Click on each title for more information and to register.

National Sex Ed Conference, Dec 3-5, Meadowlands, NJ Be on the lookout for presentations by SHR’s Kait Scalisi and the CSPH’s Megan Andelloux