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It’s On Us Week aims to support survivors, address campus climate

April 4, 2019
<p>It&#x27;s On Us cookies at the MSU Union on April 2, 2019.</p>

It's On Us cookies at the MSU Union on April 2, 2019.

Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

It’s On Us Week of Action happens once every semester at Michigan State with the goal of educating the community and raising awareness of sexual assault. From April 1 through April 5, several events were held across campus.

It’s On Us is a national campaign “dedicated to ending sexual violence on college campuses.” The Week of Action is the campaign’s most active time. 

Leah Short, a program specialist in the MSU Prevention, Outreach and Education Department, helped coordinate the week’s events. 

It’s On Us Week of Action kicked off with a “teal out” on Monday, where members of the university were encouraged to wear the color in support of sexual assault survivors. 

“It was just spreading the word to have folks wear teal because that is the color of sexual assault awareness, and we wanted to have it the first week of April because April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month,” Short said. “All April long, It’s On Us and other departments on campus are going to be holding events to raise awareness (and) support survivors.”

Short said this campus-wide effort is meant to create an “open and honest dialogue about campus climate, campus culture and how we can shift our culture to supporting survivors and ending sexual violence.” 

“All the people coming to the table really care about MSU,” Short said. “We care about our students. We care about the campus climate overall.” 

In addition to It’s On Us Week of Action, teal prayer flags have been placed along Grand River Avenue across from MSU’s campus in support of survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse. The City of East Lansing and a group of survivors’ parents — Parents of Sister Survivors Engage — partnered on the project.

“In making these flags, our goal was to hang them near campus for all to see and, as prayer flags, spread their messages of goodwill on the wind throughout the community,” Valerie von Frank, the mother of a Nassar survivor and founder of the group, said in a press release.

The East Lansing Department of Public Works installed 326 flags April 2. The rest of the 505 flags, meant to represent each known Nassar survivor, will be installed either this week or next week. They’re signed by at least 4,000 MSU students with words of support for survivors of sexual assault. 

Another step toward healing made during It’s On Us Week was MSU releasing the original “teal issue” of the Spartan Alumni Magazine almost a year after former Interim President John Engler decided to scrap it completely.

In spring 2018, MSU was preparing a special issue of its alumni magazine to be released in the summer. Three potential covers — each sporting teal and the title “Finding Our Way” — went unpublished.

On April 1, the original version was published with a cover that included a single teal ribbon with a frayed end along with the previously unpublished title. 

Aside from the “teal out,” many more events — organized by several different groups on campus — were held throughout the week. 

The MSU Sexual Assault Program and Counseling and Psychiatric Services, or CAPS, hosted a “trauma-informed yoga” event April 2 and handed out free yoga mats and teal water bottles.

Abby Baerman, a social worker at CAPS, co-facilitates “healing through yoga.” She said she shows participants how specific poses can help with anxiety, depression and other mental health problems. 

“Trauma-informed yoga is really a sensitive approach to yoga,” Baerman said. “It tends to be more of a slower yoga flow, where we offer modifications and encourage people to practice as they would like to.”

Baerman said It’s On Us is important in addressing sexual violence on campus. 

“It’s a great way for our community, particularly MSU, to be supportive of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (and) to help spread the awareness, particularly promoting against sexual assault and violence,” Baerman said. “I think it’s just great for MSU to be a part of this nationwide movement.”

The University Activities Board, or UAB, hosted its weekly open mic night April 2 and handed out free It’s On Us cookies from the MSU Bakery. 

Legan Rose, the music director of UAB, said the open mic Tuesday served as a way to spread the word about the events happening for It’s On Us Week. 

“I think it’s important because I think it (the conversation around sexual violence) has been shielded from the student population,” Rose said. “It’s important that we talk about it and learn from everything and become more self-aware.”

Rose said in addition the It’s On Us Week of Action events, UAB is holding student self-defense workshops at 6 p.m. April 4 in Akers Hall and at 6:30 p.m. April 18 in Wilson Hall.

On April 3, the Associated Students of Michigan State University gave out free t-shirts, cookies and other items to students for “Start Believing Day.” 

Gail Stern, an author and speaker on issues related to sexual assault awareness and prevention, will give a keynote address at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and again from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on April 4. 

“She’ll be talking about rape culture, sexual violence, climate, those sorts of things,” Short said.

The MSU Prevention, Outreach and Education Department and other groups involved with the campus-wide effort have the ultimate goal of continuing to raise awareness and show support for survivors of sexual assault.

“We’re just trying to continue to create an atmosphere where survivors are believed and survivors are heard,” she said. “That is a big, overarching goal.”

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