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NewsSep 26, 2018

New student group joins sexual assault fight

Lesley chapter of It’s On Us national organization hopes to “revolutionize” sexual assault awareness and education

Students pictured staffing an information table in White Hall dining hall.

Above: Katya Zinn (right) and Erin O'Shea (center), members of Lesley's It's On Us chapter, speak with Julianne Salmon at their information table in White Hall.

Using the recent anniversary of the federal Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) as a springboard, Lesley’s chapter of It’s On Us introduced itself to the campus community.

“The Violence Against Women Act revolutionized criminal justice reform by strengthening legal recourse for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence,” said Katya Zinn, a senior majoring in expressive therapies and minoring in global studies minor. “We hope to do the same by revolutionizing sexual assault awareness, prevention, and education on our campus and beyond.”

Zinn and It’s On Us Peer Support Captain Erin O’Shea ’20 recently staffed an information table at White Hall, and Zinn and Outreach Coordinator Jada Sullivan ’21 organized a birthday party and cake in the Student Center to celebrate the 4th anniversary of the It’s On Us organization.

It’s On Us, founded in 2014, is a national social movement “launched following recommendations from the White House Task Force to Prevent Sexual Assault that noted the importance of engaging everyone in the conversation to end sexual violence,” according to ItsOnUs.org. The website features photos and videos of celebrities and others who have taken the organization’s signature pledge to fight sexual violence, as well as tools such as a campus organization kit, bystander intervention tactics and a survivor hotline and online chat window.

According to Zinn, visitors to their table in White Hall learned about the history and importance of the VAWA, the campus It’s On Us chapter’s mission, how to get involved, and how to follow the group’s progress via the chapter’s Facebook page or on Instagram and Twitter.

Students slice and serve birthday cake in the student center
It's On Us members Jada Sullivan (left) and Katya Zinn serve cake in the Student Center.

“I felt not enough was being done on our campus to educate students about consent, support survivors and combat the campus sexual assault epidemic,” said Zinn, who is the president of Lesley’s It’s On Us chapter and a campus organizer for the Northeast Region of the National Organization. “We still have a few leadership positions open, so anyone interested should reach out to me or to our chapter via any of our social media platforms.”

The rest of the It’s On Us Lesley leadership team includes: S.B. Campisi, a Lesley graduate who has returned to fill the role of communications director; Matt Murch ’20, public relations officer; and the first freshman recruit, Ryan Bottitta.

Zinn added that she has a personal stake in the work of It’s On Us, as well.  

“This work is so important to me as a student and a survivor because the best way I know how to heal is by doing everything I can to prevent my story from repeating itself,” Zinn said. “For the past two years, I have been involved in educating students about consent through speaking in LU101 courses and athletic department functions, as well as advocating for student voices to be heard in Lesley’s responses to campus sexual assault.”

Zinn explains that she launched Lesley’s It’s On Us chapter to ensure that her mission to make campuses a safer place would continue after her expected graduation in the spring.

“We know better than anyone else what issues and challenges we face, and how best to protect ourselves and our friends,” Zinn said, explaining the value of the student group.