Lindsay Becker, a native of Long Island, N.Y., is dedicating her college career to tackling one of the most important topics for college-age individuals: preventing sexual assault. In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, News@Wilkes is featuring the junior criminology major who is the co-founder of Wilkes’ student chapter of It’s On Us.
It’s On Us started as a federal initiative created in 2014 dedicated to the prevention of college sexual assault through consent education, bystander intervention, and survivor support. It’s On Us is now housed at Civic Nation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. The organization encourages universities to create student chapters. According to the It’s On Us website, there are 250 registered campus chapters in the 2019-2020 school year.
“College sexual assault, the numbers are very high,” explained Becker. “When you talk about sexual assault, it happens the most among this age and in the culture within college.”
She was first introduced to the program when Andrew Wilczak, assistant professor of sociology, invited It’s On Us executive director Tracey Vitchers to campus in Spring 2019.
“I was lucky enough to hear her speak, and during her speech, I was like, ‘yeah, I want to be involved in this,” said Becker. Vitchers and Becker met for lunch, which Becker says “really kick-started [the process].”
After that, Becker and Wilkes chapter co-founder Ashley Baker, a junior criminology major, applied for chapter approval. Application for chapter approval was supported by members of the faculty and administration, including Samantha Hart, Title IX coordinator; Paul S. Adams, interim president, and Wilzcak. After receiving approval, the two attended the organization’s first national It’s On Us summer summit in 2019 at Ohio University, which saw 200 college student attendees from across the country.
At first, Becker wasn’t sure exactly why the cause spoke to her so much. It wasn’t until she attended the summit that she came to understand that an incident that had happened to her years before actually is considered sexual assault.
“I was talking to Tracey (Vitchers), and she’s a really good speaker and I thought, ‘oh it’s probably that,’” she says, pondering why she was drawn to the issue. “Then, I went to the summit over the summer and I realized I was sexually assaulted and I didn’t know it.” She speaks candidly about her experience at It’s On Us events.
“A lot of times, not everyone knows what constitutes sexual assault or what is within the surrounding topics,” said Becker. “I want to help others who have gone through it. People go through it in different ways, but there is some commonality. If you are there for someone, it helps them.”
The chapter’s main goals include bystander education, survivor education, and sexual assault education. Other board members of Wilkes’ It’s On Us Club include Baker, Karlie Gorall, Logan Beichy, Natalie Dowd, and Sydney Cogswell.
Becker says that their primary goal is to make their presence known on campus, as well as to encourage participation.
“We are hoping to get more general members,” she said. “It’s hard to start a club, but it’s harder when it’s a taboo subject like this.”
The Wilkes club hosted the national organization’s first It’s On Us training tour stop on February 24. The event featured workshops and panel discussions. About 120 students from Wilkes and other universities attended the event.
Wilczak, who serves as the faculty advisor for the organization, was part of the reason for Becker’s attending Wilkes University. First attracted to Wilkes because the school colors – blue and gold – were the same as her high school’s, Becker later went to an Wilkes admissions open house, where she met Wilczak. Since entering the University, he’s been a supportive mentor.
“He’s been god-sent,” she said. “He has really helped me out. I deal with anxiety and depression, and he has really been a rock. I really appreciate everything he does, and I’m not the only one….he goes beyond for students.”
In addition to her work with It’s On Us, Becker is the treasurer of the Criminology Club as well as a member of the women’s golf team. Because attending an open house made such a big impact when she was a prospective student, Becker also enjoys volunteering for the admissions events. “I like bringing in new students and talking to them and seeing what they want to do.”
After graduation, Becker hopes to continue working in the field of sexual assault prevention.
“My goal right now is to get into grad school, and then get a degree in public administration with a focus on non-profit work. After that, I’m hoping to work with non-profits dedicated to sexual assault work or victims’ resources.”