Changing the Culture Through Campus Engagement

This story is a guest blog by Student Advisory Committee member Shaq Keels, a student at the United States Naval Academy.

Sexual assault continues to pervade our society’s culture — in the movies, on television, in music, and in our very own communities. It’s on us as a society to combat this narrative and step up to change the culture.

I first encountered this horrific crime when I was a junior in high school, and I had a close friend of mine disclose to me that she was sexually assaulted. At first I was shocked, I had no idea what to do about the situation because I never imagined that someone close to me would become a victim. But seeing how her life was, and still is, affected is when I realized that I wanted and needed to be a part of changing the climate around me everywhere I went.

Attending the Naval Academy, I became involved in the Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Education program, a student-led program that educates the Brigade of Midshipmen on topics such as consent and supporting survivors of sexual violence.

Shaq Keels with Vice President Joe Biden at an It’s On Us event at the U.S. Naval Academy in November 2015.

When President Obama and Vice President Biden launched the It’s On Us campaign, I was proud to see two great leaders publicly acknowledge that sexual violence is a serious issue and we must all fix it. Frankly, this is a topic that no one wants to talk about. But we can’t turn a blind eye to it and expect it to fix itself. We must confront the issue at hand and have the appropriate conversations on how we can make a difference.

“Sexual violence is the only equal opportunity employer. It occurs in the wealthiest communities and the poorest communities. It occurs on campuses where you do not wear a uniform and where a uniform is worn,” Vice President Joe Biden said as he led a round table discussion last fall here at the United States Naval Academy. These words stand true, sexual assault affects many people from many different walks of life.

As a proud member of the It’s On Us Student Advisory Committee, I’ve been able to work with a great group of leaders from different campuses, majors, and backgrounds who are all dedicated to the same cause — to eradicate sexual violence. Working with this committee and the It’s On Us campaign has been life changing, not only for myself but for the numerous people I work with on my own campus. I have gained a lot of knowledge from the committee and campaign that I used to open the eyes of my peers on how we must step up when duty calls. As future leaders in the military, we must recognize that it is our responsibility to protect the men and women whom we serve, both military and civilian.

It’s On Us to have the courage to stand up and speak out. It’s On Us to get it right. It’s On Us to prevent sexual assault and support survivors.

Now is your chance to join the movement — today, It’s On Us is launching the second year of the Student Advisory Committee. Click here to apply.