Earlier this week, the Fort Collins community and Colorado State University hosted the first statewide summit of its kind in the nation, focused on involving Colorado communities in ending sexual assault and sexual violence. Serving as a national model for other states, initial steps in a plan to address sexual violence across the state emerged from the summit’s exchange of ideas and expertise, with a goal to shift community-wide thinking and efforts toward prevention.
Part of the It’s On Us movement, the summit on Monday provided innovative ideas and best practices for Colorado campuses, universities and municipalities to help entire communities identify ways to prevent sexual assault. Momentum from the day led to the creation of an initial, action-oriented, statewide team through the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to investigate forming a Colorado It’s On Us committee to serve as a sexual assault and violence prevention and education resource to communities of all sizes across the state.
It’s On Us involves everyone in change
Initiated by the White House under Joe Biden, It’s On Us advocates that everyone has a role in preventing sexual assault and can be empowered by identifying situations in which sexual assaults may occur, learning skills to intervene, and creating an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported. Attendees represented more than 20 entities, including elected officials, municipal staff, university staff and student leaders, first responders, victim’s advocacy services, and state government staff.
“Sexual assault is an incredibly personal topic, and a great deal of work is already being done at CSU and in Fort Collins,” said CSU President Tony Frank. “However, as a society, we are failing, and we’ve created an environment that has allowed sexual assault and violence to persist. In the end, or in the beginning, depending on how you view it, it will be on each of us to do what we can to make a difference.”
At the summit, state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced that her office would be funding Haven, a sexual assault, stalking, relationship violence awareness and educational online program for students, for all Colorado college campuses. Colorado State University implemented Haven several years ago as a requirement for all new students.
“The State of Colorado, the City of Fort Collins, and CSU are known for being progressive and forward thinking already,” said Lea Hanson, program director for the It’s On Us Fort Collins initiative. “This is a new way we can lead our peers around the nation to tackle hard-but important-issues. I see the future being an exciting and continual growth and expansion of both individual commitment and community action to ending sexual violence and ridding our communities of rape supportive culture.”
Fort Collins, CSU creating national model
Last summer Fort Collins was the first city in the nation to be declared an It’s On Us community by the White House, under the leadership of city council member Gino Campana, who worked directly with Vice President Biden during the Obama administration, and Hanson. The local efforts focus involve the city, SAVA – the Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Center, CSU, and others.
“I like to describe our work with the following analogy: most work to date has revolved around survivor support which is like an airbag of a car,” said Campana. “An airbag doesn’t prevent the crash but mitigates the damages. But prevention through a societal shift of empowerment is like the new braking sensors on cars that prevent the accident from happening in the first place.”