It's On Us IUP logoFor the fifth year, Indiana University of Pennsylvania has received a $30,000 grant through Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s It’s On Us PA initiative to combat campus sexual assault.

Wolf announced recipients of the grant for 2021–22 on December 10.

At IUP, It’s On Us funding for the coming year will support these three efforts: evaluation of the university’s existing sexual-assault prevention efforts, policies, and procedures; expanded mental-health services for survivors of sexual violence; and a campaign to reinforce that sexual assault is a community-wide issue.

IUP’s grant proposal was written by Jessica Miller, chair of the Counseling Center and director of the Haven Project, a department that supports students who experience sexual and relationship violence and that educates students about these issues.

With help from It’s On Us funding from previous years, the university has worked diligently to improve its response to sexual violence, Miller said. Those efforts have included providing extensive training to show bystanders how they can intervene to prevent sexual assault, revising policies on sexual misconduct, and improving processes for reporting sexual assault, including giving an option for anonymous reporting.

IUP will use the new It’s On Us funding, in part, to measure how effective those efforts have been, Miller said. This evaluation will involve an audit of campus resources targeting sexual violence; a campus climate survey to gauge experiences, behaviors, and attitudes relating to sexual violence; and focus groups with students to gather more in-depth information.

“This data collection is critical to our success and will inform where we need to focus our energy and resources moving forward,” Miller said.

Previous campus climate surveys have shown that students go to peers more than they go to faculty and staff members for support after incidents of sexual violence. Plans for the new funding include supplementing IUP’s existing mental-health services with an online platform that has a peer-support component.

The It’s On Us grant will also fund a social marketing campaign that focuses on providing messages of support to survivors of sexual violence. This week of activities will culminate in the annual Take Back the Night march and speak-out and in the distribution of It’s On Us T-shirts to students.

“This emphasizes that combating sexual violence is a community effort,” Miller said. “It encourages all students to see themselves as a part of the IUP community and empowers them to be a part of the culture change.”

Miller counts many of IUP’s sexual-violence prevention efforts as successes, including training nearly 2,000 students in bystander intervention, compiling a database of 800 students who want to be involved in events and trainings, and having campus leaders regularly attend prevention activities.

Still, the university has room to improve, she said, in increasing the reporting rate of sexual-violence incidents and in educating a community that continues to change.

“We know we are succeeding, but each year we have new students and new hires coming to campus without much awareness of IUP’s culture,” she said. “We must continue to educate all new members of our community and create programs and trainings that are sustainable.”

IUP previously received It’s On US PA funding in 2016, 2018, 2019, and 2020. The 2021–22 grant activities will span January 2022 through May 2023.

In addition to the Counseling Center and Haven Project, other campus partners in these activities will include the Office of the President and the Office of Social Equity and Title IX.