Ortner Center on Violence & Abuse in Relationships

First Person: Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention: Education, Research, and Activism on Penn's Campus

Isabella Auchus

Ortner Student Fellow

September 2016

  • isabella pic
    (Take Back the Night, Penn, April 2016)

Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) is a group of Penn students dedicated to raising awareness about sexual violence and educating on methods of preventing these assaults, a major problem on campuses throughout the country.  My personal engagement in sexual assault prevention began my freshman year during a gender studies class in which I learned about ASAP. I began attending meetings and took on a leadership role by the end of the year. Soon after that I became involved with the Ortner Center.


ASAP contributes to this topic in varied ways. We host weekly discussions at the Penn Women’s Center on a range of topics.  ASAP also sponsors documentary screenings and speakers relevant to ASAP's mission. Perhaps our most meaningful contribution is the coordination of Penn’s Take Back the Night (TBTN). This is a campus-wide demonstration against sexual violence involving undergraduate and graduate students and a diverse group of Penn faculty. The program features a keynote speaker, a rally, and a march around campus, concluding with a survivor speak-out.  The increased attendance each year signifies the interest in and importance of this program. Upcoming events in Fall 2016 include the Got Consent Campaign, a poster campaign that features photographs of students involved in campus activities, with text on what consent means. The posters will be hung around Penn’s campus. 


ASAP is one of a number of student-run anti-violence groups that make up Penn's Violence Prevention programs. Another is a well-known social justice movement known as the Vagina Monologues stages readings each spring at Penn and campuses and other locations across the country. It has been a successful catalyst for heightening awareness and raising funds to benefit groups working to reduce violence against women. And, Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault (MARS) is a Penn men's group that uses peer education to reduce sexual violence. And, finally, Penn itself directs PAVE, a peer education student group that facilitates workshops on how to be an active bystander.


The combined experiences with ASAP and the Ortner Center magnified my role as an activist against sexual violence and exposed me to the extensive programs needed to address this subject.  For example, Ortner provided a venue into research on the intersection between the rape culture and violence, a subject often discussed at ASAP. Through Ortner I have become aware of how  meaningful research is generated and conducted, and how  results have the potential to produce the multiple changes needed to support survivors of sexual violence, whether on our campus, our community, or around the world. I plan to go to medical school, and know that my experiences with ASAP and Ortner have furnished me with an awareness of the skills, knowledge, and sensitivity needed to address problems, often difficult to determine, that can overwhelm mental and physical health.