York Dispatch

Any woman who's gone to college has heard the warnings.

Don't let someone else pour your drink.

Don't walk on campus alone at night.

Be careful where you park your car.

Go to parties with a friend and keep an eye on each other.

And still, there is a "party culture" on many campuses that somehow makes it acceptable for young men to have sex with young women who are incapable of consenting, either because they are too drunk or because they have been drugged,

A new initiative, It's On Us PA, hopes to make people more aware of the boundaries that shouldn't be crossed while also making it acceptable for women to speak up when they have been assaulted.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced the program last week, signing on to a campaign begun by President Barack Obama in 2014.

The campaign encourages college community members to take a pledge with four goals:

Wolf launches 'It's on Us PA' to fight sexual violence

  • Recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault.
  • Identify situations in which sexual assault may occur.
  • Intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.
  • Create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

York College is part of the campaign, with programs including a Consent and Respect course that all incoming students must take and a Sexual Assault Response Program committee.

The goal is to focus on prevention rather than avoidance, according to Kristen Houser, spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. That means changing societal norms to make rape unacceptable, rather than putting the impetus on women to be constantly on guard against assault. It also means people have to speak up.

Kristen Houser, Chief Public Affairs Officer at PCAR

"There are all types of situations where you can intervene, whether you see someone creeping in on some else’s boundaries or someone who is very inebriated being dragged out of the party," Houser said. "Intervening in these situations is a way people can really change this dynamic."

It's far past time for that societal change to happen.

According to PCAR, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, and 90 percent of those assaults are unreported.

As a society, we need to both help eliminate the assaults and make sure those who are assaulted know that they can report the crime and be believed and supported. Initiatives such as It's On Us PA are a good step toward that end.