Forum: Raising hands against sexual assault

William Herbst

Sexual Assault. Rape Culture. Victim Scrutiny. These are some things that happen within our community every day. It is heartbreaking to think about how these issues happen all the time, and yet, there has been little push back from the student body. After hearing stories of close friends being assaulted, enough became enough. I wanted to start a movement within our community that could lead and guide students into standing up against sexual assault and help make victims feel safe. After talking with a friend at SMU about the problems within our community, he told me about a campaign and organization called Not On My Campus that he and other SMU students started to challenge students to fight rape culture and sexual assault in their community. I wanted to bring this movement into our community. With the help of Edwin Qian and Ellen Cocanougher, we brought Not On My Campus to the community last spring. In bringing Not On My Campus to UT, we had two goals in mind: 1) make people aware of rape culture at UT and challenge them to stand up to it and 2) educate students about their rights and the resources that Voices Against Violence and the school offer to victims. 

Before we started Not On My Campus at UT last spring, I do not think many students knew how serious of an issue sexual assault and rape culture were in the community. To show people how big of an issue sexual assault is and how we as a community could combat it, we launched the Not On My Campus social media campaign, in which students would write the words “Not On My Campus” on their hand and post a picture of themselves holding out their hand to start the conversation amongst students. We also challenged students to take our Not On My Campus pledge to stand up to rape culture within our community. With the release of the AAU report stating that roughly one in five female undergraduate students have been sexually assaulted, I believe that students as well as the University are now aware more than ever about the magnitude of sexual assault in our community. 

When we started the campaign last spring, we realized that not many students had knowledge about sexual assault, such as what it is, what their rights are as a victim, what resources are available at the school, etc. For our second goal, we educated students this semester through our Knowledge On My Campus campaign which challenged students to share our link of all the facts, rights and resources that a student needs to know regarding sexual assault. Currently, we plan to create a Not On My Campus presentation for First-Year Interest Group mentors to educate their groups about sexual assault. By educating students right as they enter UT, I believe we will be creating the foundational knowledge necessary to put an end to rape culture and help create a safe community for all students. 

It is my hope and dream that UT reaches the point where students will always take the initiative in stopping rape culture, whether it is calling out a person for telling a rape joke or helping someone who has had too much to drink. I challenge all Longhorns to not be a bystander and to always do their best in creating a safe community where we protect victims and prevent assaults. As UT students, this is our campus, and we should each do what we can to make sure rape culture is NOT ON OUR CAMPUS.

Herbst is an accounting junior from Houston. He is a co-founder of Not On My Campus.