Hoos Got Your Back campaign holds pledge day

More than 300 student agree to be active bystanders

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The bystander awareness campaign Hoos Got Your Back held Pledge Day Thursday to promote its message of bystander intervention. More than 300 students signed a pledge committing themselves to combat sexual violence on Grounds as part of the event.

In signing the pledge, students agreed to learn about sexual assault, start a dialogue about sexual assault, intervene against sexual assault and support sexual assault survivors.

“Sexual misconduct will not end until we, as members of the University of Virginia community, accept responsibility to become part of the solution,” the pledge stated.

“Sexual misconduct will not end until we, as members of the University of Virginia community, accept responsibility to become part of the solution,” the pledge stated. “That responsibility encompasses words, actions, and beliefs that directly combat sexual misconduct and build a community free of violence.”

The campaign began this past summer and is sponsored by Not on Our Grounds, the University initiative dedicated to ending sexual assault on Grounds.

Nicole Thomas, prevention coordinator in the Office of the Dean of Students, said the campaign intentionally scheduled Pledge Day for Homecomings weekend. The group hopes to maximize exposure due to the increased traffic on the Corner during Homecomings.

Thomas also emphasized the importance of promoting bystander awareness as opposed to singling out men as potential perpetrators and women as potential victims.

“With bystander intervention, it takes those labels off and brings everyone together,” Thomas said. “It says even if you haven’t experienced this, you still have a responsibility as part of the community to do something about it. It makes [sexual violence] everyone’s problem. … Everyone has the potential to be a solution.”

Fourth-year College student Erica Robertson, major events chair for the Sexual Violence Prevention Coalition, helped to plan Pledge Day.

“Everyone here wants to help, and by having this campaign we are providing them a way to be more involved in becoming an active bystander,” Robertson said. “We are trying to get the general community involved and aware.”

Robertson pointed out that Hoos Got Your Back does not just target University students.

“Our organization is trying to outreach to the general community,” Robertson said. “Not just U.Va. students, but the Charlottesville community and places that we regularly go to.”

Hoos Got Your Back has partnered with 23 Corner merchants who have agreed to raise awareness about the importance of bystander intervention. In honor of Homecomings, these merchants will use special coasters with the three Ds of bystander intervention: direct, distract and delegate.

Second-year College student Sofia Lamrissi-Garcia was one of 308 students to sign the pledge on Thursday.

“I feel like a lot of people think they know about sexual assault and are interested in taking action, but don’t actually do it,” Lamrissi-Garcia said. “Signing the pledge will lead students to actually take action.”

Lamrissi-Garcia hopes the Hoos Got Your Back campaign will bring about significant understanding about the problem sexual violence at the University.

“The more people who sign it, the more awareness will come to it,” Lamrissi-Garcia said. “It creates a mentality of change on Grounds.”

First-year College student Luke Nicholson also signed the pledge. He said he hopes the campaign will create a safer environment for all students.

“Sexual violence is one the biggest problems that colleges are facing these days, and we need to step up and combat it in order to make this place great for all of us,” Nicholson said.

Nicholson said that as a man, he felt especially compelled to sign the pledge.

“As a man I need to do my part, because we are the biggest perpetrators of sexual violence,” Nicholson said. “We need to fix the problem that we are the biggest cause of. Hopefully we can step up as a community and work together to fix the problem of sexual violence.”

Thomas said taking action does not have to be difficult.

“We’re not asking that people are superheroes or vigilantes, but we’re just asking that if you see something that looks uncomfortable or potentially dangerous, to say something,” Thomas said.

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