The University of Nebraska–Lincoln is encouraging all Huskers to help prevent relationship violence and sexual assault by adopting a call to action that also identifies a new university initiative: Use Your Voice.
Led by Student Affairs, the initiative is designed to drive meaningful dialogue about the prevalence of sexual violence on university campuses, where one in four undergraduate women and one of every 10 students overall are sexually assaulted or raped.
“Initiatives such as Use Your Voice bring issues like relationship violence and sexual assault to the forefront.”
Emily Johnson, a senior majoring in global studies, political science and Spanish, said she hopes the initiative will help more students feel comfortable talking about sexual assault. A willingness to communicate openly about the issue, she said, can help students educate their friends and classmates while also taking tangible actions to protect them.
“At Nebraska, we need to normalize bystander intervention to make sure someone is always willing to step in if a situation or person is making someone uncomfortable,” Johnson said. “We also need students to always be conscious of what is going on around them and what they can do to help prevent sexual assault.”
As president of the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska, Johnson acknowledged the valuable advice provided by administrators and faculty but said the messages of Use Your Voice can mean even more when coming directly from a fellow student.
“When it comes to prevention, there is only so much that can happen on an administrative, institutional level before the brunt of the responsibility falls on students,” Johnson said. “Students need to call their peers out for making rape jokes; students need to make sure an intoxicated friend makes it home safely; students need to learn that consent is affirmative and enthusiastic, and that silence is not consent.”
Use Your Voice is one of multiple initiatives the university is introducing this fall to address sexual assault and harassment. One such program, Step Up, has helped 1,000-plus universities, colleges and organizations learn to identify and assist people who are especially at risk of sexual violence.
“Collectively, these efforts have one key message: Each of us can make a significant difference in creating a culture of respect and care,” Bellows said, “simply by stepping up and using our voices.”
To learn more about campus resources or request training on a multitude of issues related to sexual assault, click here.