Student Government attempts to tackle sexual assault


Korrie Bysted/Iowa State Daily

Kathryn Leidahl, running mate of Amanda Loomis, talks about her campaign for vice president of GSB during the vice presidential debate in the Oak Room of the Memorial Union on Tuesday, Feb. 24.

Michaela Ramm

The executive cabinet of Student Government has created a new position solely focused on finding solutions for a prevalent issue on campus.

Kathryn Leidahl, senior in political science, has been named by the executive branch as the director of sexual assault for Student Government.

President Dan Breitbarth and Vice President Megan Sweere appointed Leidahl to the task at the end of September after a several-week-long hiring process.

Breitbarth said he and Sweere knew they would have this position on the cabinet after they were elected. But the recent release of the campus climate survey has prompted swift action on the decision.

The campus climate survey, which was released Sept. 21, showed statistics regarding sexual assault from victims or bystanders that shocked some members of the ISU community.

“If anything, [the survey] has been a catalyst more so to finalize everything to get the ball rolling,” Breitbarth said.

Student Government has been active in the conversation and projects for change on this issue, but this is the first time anyone on Student Government has focused completely on sexual assault.

“This gives someone a complete, narrow focus look on this to make sure it’s done the right way,” Breitbarth said.

It’s On Us, a national campaign to spread awareness and prevent sexual assault, was brought to campus last year by then-President Hillary Kletscher. Now, it is Leidahl’s task as director to oversee the entire campaign on campus.

“The entire project is now in my hands, which is a daunting task but a very exciting one,” Leidahl said.

For the campaign, Leidahl hopes to initially educate and make people more aware of the issue. This campaign will be more of an of an educational-type tool, she said.

From there, she hopes to conduct a campus-wide pledge, as well as some sort of educational display on campus for others to learn more about the issue.

The bystander effect will also be a major aspect of the education from It’s On Us.

“It’s important that people step up, and that people are comfortable enough to approach a situation and shut it down before something terrible happens,” Leidahl said.

Leidahl said she also wants to build a positive definition behind the logo of It’s On Us.

‘It’s a positive thing that Iowa State is taking steps to prevent this type of behavior,” Leidahl said. “[It’s positive] that we celebrate and embrace those who have felt this way and make them feel comfortable, make Iowa State their home again.”

Leidahl said she will be working toward the recognition of It’s On Us and hopes to host at least one event this semester.

Leidahl has been a part of the movement before, particularly in her involvement with Greeks Ending Violence Now, a sexual assault prevention class within Iowa State’s greek community.

Leidahl said being involved with that project inspired her.

“I really got passionate about it. It was like a call of action for me,” she said.

When she heard about the position, a lightbulb went off in her head, Leidahl said. She feels very passionate about the issue and wants to be a part of the movement for change.

“Something needs to be done,” Leidahl said. “It’s absolutely not acceptable that we’re seeing these things and I just want to do my part on campus and turn that around.”

If you wish to be involved with Leidahl’s projects, contact her at [email protected].