November 1, 2016
Syrah Sherwood, Point Park’s Not On My Campus founder and president, stressed how easily lines can be blurred in sexual encounters at Halloween gatherings where costumes can be misinterpreted.
“Costumes can often be small, but consent is consent. Little clothing doesn’t mean ‘yes,’” Sherwood said.
Point Park University’s chapter of Not On My Campus has launched a new photo campaign, “Costume is Not Consent” to raise awareness of the issue. Sherwood said the importance was to remind students of the use of consent during Halloween weekend at their event in Village Park on Oct. 26.
“We are trying to promote consent, especially with how large and intense these parties can be,” Sherwood said.
Jill Bradshaw, a club member, said the overall goal of the campaign is safety and education on how to handle these situations.
“We are really just trying to make sure everyone is safe this Halloween,” Bradshaw said. “We are encouraging the use of consent, not force. We are really hoping to educate people on the use of consent and what sexual assault is.”
Bradshaw also said a person, despite what they are wearing, always has a right to consent.
“If someone is wearing a costume, that doesn’t give you the right to depict that person in a sexual way,” Bradshaw said. “They still need to say they agree.”
Wesley Ehle, vice president of Not On My Campus, said it’s the duty of those witnessing sexual assault to not ignore it.
“People need to feel safe and empowered in these situations,” Ehle said. “Don’t be a bystander if someone is being forced.”
Not On My Campus currently has 170 pledges in their first year affiliated to Point Park’s Campus. Their group primarily communicates through its pages on Facebook and Instagram. The group is encouraging more students to raise their voices against sexual assault.
“The more people that become involved, the better. Our goal is to create a campus-wide system of support for victims,” Sherwood said. “We hold meetings spontaneously, but usually a week before any planned event. They are always posted on our Facebook page and Instagram.”
Sherwood was inspired to start the program by a friend at another campus and decided it was time for Point Park to raise awareness as well.
“Everyone has experience in some way with sexual assault, whether it’s a friend, themselves or a classmate whose been affected,” Sherwood said.
Overall, Sherwood did not have any complaints on the way that Point Park handles sexual assault.
“We do a great job here at handling sexual assault,” Sherwood said. “It’s important that we listen to the victims,” Sherwood said. “We are lucky that we don’t have a lot of victim shaming here. We focus on making sure they are comfortable and not their attacker.”
Not On My Campus’ next event will be a screening of “Hunting Ground” in the University Center. The date is still to be determined, but will be posted on Facebook and Instagram. Pizza, popcorn and drinks will be provided.
“We are encouraging people to come and check it out,” Sherwood said. “The documentary follows the lives of women who were the victims of sexual assault and how it has affected them.”
Point Park’s Not On My Campus has a few more events in the works to raise awareness not only on campus, but in outside communities as well.
“Next year we are looking forward to a coaster campaign, where we can raise awareness about sexual assault at many of the local bars and restaurants in Pittsburgh,” Ehle said.