October is recognized in New York State and nationally as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In Schenectady, New York, the Union College men's hockey team is partnering with student leaders to combat domestic violence and sexual assault on college campuses. Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy joined the leaders and athletes as they issued the challenge Tuesday afternoon at the Nott Memorial on the Union Campus.
The peer-to-peer initiative spearheaded by student feminists and members of Union's national championship men’s hockey team is taking a stand - drawing attention to these issues and encouraging others to join them. Union hockey players recently became the first team to undergo Bystander Intervention training, which enlists and trains members of the campus community to intervene in situations where sexual harassment or sexual violence appear imminent. Player Sebastien Gingras challenged all division one hockey teams in the U.S. "...to take the It's On Us pledge, and help us fight to reduce sexual assault on college campuses across the nation."
Shayna Han, a senior and student leader at Union, explains "Bystander Intervention" : "If you are somewhere and you think something is gonna happen, you see two people, you're a little concerned about it, bystander intervention empowers an individual to walk up and say 'hey, what's going on?' to interrupt, separate and diffuse the situation."
New York's Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy, who was on hand for the challenge, waxed considerable optimism regarding the societal impact, and offered this promise: "I will carry the message back to the Governor and the team in Albany that Union could be a model. Union can be used in future forums with universities and colleges and leadership in the SUNY system. What a great group of young people to bring in and have them talk about what they did here. The coalition they've built, the collaboration. I love the fact that you have a national championship hockey team joining these young women, and everybody seems to be aligned with this. When you go to college, and we've all gone to college, you can get a degree but you might not often get an education. These students at Union Colleges, they're getting an education."
Shayna Han says women on campus have to be careful. "One out of four women on college campuses, over the course of her educational career, will be raped or the victim of an attempted rape. And so all of this comes back to consent, and to healthy sexual relationships. And what I and my three friends here, my committee is trying to fight, is the thought culture on college campuses."
Han says even though college campuses are considered close-knit communities, women have to exercise caution. "Know where you're walking, don't drink anything that you haven't set your eye on. Know how to run in high heels."
Student activist Kyra DeTone : "The 'Its On Us' campaign was released from the White House stating that 'college communities need to step up together to prevent sexual assault and promote awareness on the issue, and not let their victims be silenced."
Lt. Gov Duffy says the hashtag #ItsOnUs will be a success, in time... "Programs are only as good as the people who listen to them and follow through on what is suggested. I would say Union College here is going to stand a great chance of turning the tide on this campus. I think we're on the right path. We have a long ways to go, and I think we declare victory when every college and university can say there are zero incidents during the course of a year."