When Elliott Bouillion first arrived at SMU, he didn’t pay much attention to notices about sexual assault.
“It seemed almost every two weeks that students would receive an email about a reported sexual assault happening on our campus. It wasn’t until I learned that one of my close friends was sexually assaulted that I knew that this was an issue that had to be stopped.”
Elliott wasn’t alone. Other students also wanted action, and they took their concerns to Student Body President Ramon Trespalacios. Soon, the Not on My Campus Campaign was born, a program mirroring initiatives at other campuses across the country.
“Not on My Campus was student initiated and is completely student led,” stresses Ramon. “The idea of the campaign first came in the Fall of 2013, and I invited all of those student and other leaders on campus to get together and come up with an idea to end the silence surrounding sexual assaults. This group of students, who came from different areas of campus (Greek Life, Arts, Student Government, Resident Life, etc.), decided we needed to: educate, spread awareness and encourage being an active bystander.”
After listening to student input, and after finding collaboration with school administration and national resources, Elliott, Ramon and SMU senior Liz Dubret developed a presentation for students. Much of the program is fashioned after the White House’s It’s On Us campaign, adopted by the NCAA, MTV and other groups. “Our society still does not sufficiently value women,” said President Obama in the initiative’s launch. “We still don’t condemn sexual assault as loudly as we should. We make excuses. We look the other way.”
The NOMC campaign focuses on 12 bullet points, including not blaming the victim, avoiding dangerous situations and intervening to help others. The student speakers also discuss the role of alcohol and stress that a person too drunk to consent cannot consent.
“Most people will not initiate a discussion about sexual assault,” says Liz, “but I have found that once we have opened the door, people are willing to speak. Starting these conversations all over campus is important. Knowledge is power, and I am hoping we can empower our campus to prevent sexual misconduct but also empower those who experience it to come forward because they know that SMU is a supportive environment.
Liz’ sorority sisters, the Chi Omegas, received the team’s “dry run.”
“I liked the conversational aspect of the presentation,” says Lindsey Cianciotta, a junior from New Jersey. “I enjoyed the way they made it easy to ask questions and address topics that really apply to students.”
Caroline Gurley, a sophomore from Birmingham, Alabama, agrees.
“I think it was a great gateway to discussion about a topic that is sometimes uncomfortable to discuss. The questions that the audience asked were tough to answer, but Liz, Ramon and Elliott did a great job of answering them.”
“I love the awareness that the students are creating through bringing organizations like Not on My Campus to SMU and having Liz, our own sister and friend, talk to us about the reality of sexual assault was so powerful,” says Victoria McKay, a senior from North Dallas. “I liked how they were casual and relatable, and I thought using celebrity names to give examples was a good tactic.”
Emily Tribble, an SMU sophomore, admits she’s heard talks on date rape and sexual assault before but was particularly impressed this time.
“I thought it was much more approachable than other presentations I’ve seen. Hearing such a vital message from my peers was a great change from the, at times, overbearing qualities of adult lectures on sexual assault. I hope they continue to spread their precise and clear message to other groups at SMU.”
Ramon admits the three have limited training, but the national campaign and advice from Dr. Joanne Vogel, SMU’s Dean of Student Life, have helped.
“We are not sexperts,” he jokes, “but we want to be educated enough to be able to talk about it with our peers. We were able to interact with Dr. Vogel and get guidance as to how to talk about this sensitive subject. She’s been extremely helpful.”
Students and supporters are encouraged to “like” the Not on My Campus Facebook page and upload photos to show support. Resources and information are available at notalone.gov, and the National Sexual Assault Hotline number is 1-800-656-HOPE.