Spreading awareness is the first step in solving any crisis and for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, that first step has been a “Weekend of action”, the conferences tie-in to the #ItsOnUs social media campaign to stop sexual assault.
The movement, which has already spread to over 1,000 college campuses and trained over 5,000 student leaders has received a breakthrough of sorts for PSAC schools this year, with stickers reading “It’s On Us” appearing on softball and baseball helmets, lacrosse sticks, tennis rackets and track equipment throughout the conference’s 18 members.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Slippery Rock Director of Athletics Paul Lueken said. “Our teams are participating and you can see the support they are giving on social media. A lot of times in our world, athletics plays a part in defining what the culture should be, hopefully in a positive way.”
In addition to the campaign’s representation on equipment, the PSAC designated 53 events (four of which were at SRU) across seven sports as hosts during the sexual violence weekend of action, which occurred on April 6th-8th. Students, athletes, friends, family and fans were encouraged to tweet their presence at the events, using the #ItsOnUs movement.
“It’s time to let everyone in the world know that this is not acceptable behavior: it never was,” Lueken said. “We’ve had some very brave people step forward and say ‘this has happened to me.’ If we don’t have people who speak out, we won’t know about it and we won’t be able to stop future assaults.”
The athletics at SRU have made sure to take a proactive, rather than reactive, stance on sexual assault by taking a caring, family atmosphere to the athletic program.
“We’re strong and family-minded. As an athletic program, departments and sports alike, we are a big family trying to watch out for one another,” Lueken said. “I have a daughter. A lot of us have sisters and brothers, we all have mothers and fathers, we would never want that to happen to someone. Our student-athletes have bought into it well.”
For Lueken and the entire athletic program at SRU, it was a no-brainer to adapt the movement as fast as possible.
“Student-athletes live in a fishbowl, so that’s good and bad,” Lueken said. “The good part is we can lead the charge and take a positive stance to educate the rest of the student body, community and world that sexual assault is just not acceptable.”
Slippery Rock has taken even further measures to assure that none of the student athletes at SRU, present or future, are contributors to a harmful atmosphere of sexual assault.
“When we recruit transfers, we vet them to make sure they don’t have a past not representative of what we want to be. We look hard at those types of things and if we see that, we move on,” Lueken said. “Our student-athletes have been positive about that.”
Those wishing to join the movement to end sexual assault can take the pledge at Itsonus.org to join the hundreds of PSAC athletes and thousands of NCAA athletes who are already actively involved.