Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter!

Students launch group to provide peer-to-peer support for sexual assault survivors

Photo Illustration by Daniel Heuer | Staff Photographer
The It’s On Us at GW Instagram account

Editor’s note: This article contains references to sexual violence. If you have faced sexual or dating violence on or off campus, call GW’s Sexual Assault & Intimate Violence (SAIV) Helpline at (202) 994-7222. 

A student group dedicated to the prevention and awareness of sexual assault on college campuses launched last month. 

It’s On Us at GW — a chapter of the national organization — formed to promote grassroots awareness of on-campus sexual assault and implement optional educational assault prevention programs for all students. Members said the group focuses on building a peer-to-peer model for sexual assault education to empower and educate students through tools like bystander intervention training and support for survivors. 

Students who experience sexual assault can go to the Title IX Office to file a formal complaint against the perpetrator, according to the Title IX Office website. If a student wants to remain anonymous, officials encourage them to reach out to the office to learn what their on- and off-campus resources are, including the GW-run Sexual Assault & Intimate Violence Helpline — a 24/7 service staffed by “clinically-trained professionals” — for assistance and connections to other resources, and the D.C. Rape Crisis Center

GW’s branch of It’s On Us adds to the more than 500 chapters across the United States. In a recent Instagram post, the GW chapter stated that one of their goals is to cultivate a supportive community on campus through programming like care nights and mindfulness sessions, where students can journal and create vision boards in the fall. 

Sophomore Zoe Larkey, the founder of the chapter, said she hopes to create “survivor circles” where survivors of sexual violence can share their experiences in a protected environment.

Larkey said the resources already available at GW “failed” her because she felt like the Title IX Office employees were more focused on the “administrative process” instead of providing the support she needed after she was sexually assaulted in October of her freshman year. Larkey said she lived on the same floor as her perpetrator and was unable to change her housing situation.

From connecting with others about their struggles to find adequate resources, Larkey said she realized she was not alone.

“I just saw a really big need for resources and stuff on campus that just didn’t exist,” Larkey said. “I found that my story was not unique. There were a lot of people who had experiences really similar and faced a lot of difficulty getting resources and support that they needed.” 

Larkey said the organization is expanding its presence on campus by posting on Instagram and informing peers across campus to bring in more members. She said some of her teammates on the women’s rowing team attended the organization’s virtual interest meeting earlier this month to support her.

“It is really hard, especially with the topic of sexual violence. Not everyone wants to bring that up to their friends,” she said. 

The organization is hosting its first in-person event in District House on Monday, which will focus on sexual assault awareness and consent education. 

Larkey said she learned about It’s On Us after doing research last fall on different sexual violence prevention initiatives. She said the process of forming a chapter of It’s On Us was “very easy.” She said she filled out an online application and attended an onboarding meeting with leaders from the national organization to confirm her interest in starting a chapter at GW.

Larkey said she is open to working with GW Students Against Sexual Assault — an organization with similar objectives as It’s On Us at GW — for joint events and initiatives. She said what sets It’s On Us at GW apart from similar organizations is the network of other schools that also house It’s On Us chapters, including American University. 

First-year Margaret Barker, a member of It’s On Us at GW, said she joined the organization earlier this month after hearing about it from Larkey. She said Larkey and her are both members of Alpha Phi Omega — a coeducational service fraternity — and Larkey’s service project conducted during the fraternity’s pledging process focused on sexual assault awareness at GW which encouraged Larkey to start the organization.

“This is something I care passionately about, so I just wanted to support her and join,” Barker said.

Barker said members took the national organization’s pledge to serve as advocates for sexual assault awareness and provide support to those seeking help from It’s On Us during an interest meeting earlier this month. She added the organization will hopefully serve as a valuable resource for students who have experienced sexual assault.

“This isn’t a guy-girl issue,” Barker said. “It happens to anybody so it’s really important for everybody to be educated and know their resources.”

Barker said Larkey is passionate about the issue and expects the organization to grow a following quickly due to her dedication.

Barker said anyone can join the organization and it provides support from students to all survivors regardless of whether they choose to report their sexual assault to the Title IX Office. She said the organization does not directly work with the University but is meant to act as a supplement to University resources.

“Sometimes it’s really hard to talk to adults and trusted officials and you just want to talk to a student,” she said.

First-year and It’s On Us at GW member Sofia Piro said she was inspired to join the organization after seeing Larkey’s work on sexual assault awareness for Alpha Phi Omega, where she is also a member. Piro said that currently, the main goal of It’s On Us at GW is to grow the organization and engage with the community.

“It’s definitely welcoming and open to anybody who wants to join,” Piro said.

Piro said the organization must involve the student body, including men, in conversations about destigmatizing sexual assault. One in 26 men in the U.S. reported facing completed or attempted rape in their lifetime, according to the CDC.

“I think it’s important that It’s On Us gets the whole community involved in making something like sexual assault more talked about,” Piro said.

More to Discover
Donate to The GW Hatchet