Students gathered at Pardee Plaza Sunday morning for It Ends Here, a 2.5-kilometer run/walk aimed at raising awareness of sexual assault on campus. Forty-one sex offenses were reported in 2015, according to the Department of Public Safety’s 2016 Annual Security Report released Friday, a 32 percent increase from the year prior.
The event was held for the first time this year by the USC Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention and Services and the Los Angeles Police Department in partnership with Trojan Marketing Group and the Undergraduate Student Government.
Runners were given teal bracelets to wear and filled out “Why I’m Running” signs to show their support. LAPD officers were also at the run. Officer Oscar Ibanez spoke to the attendees before the run began, thanking them for coming out and explaining the factors that lead up to sexual assault.
“It is a taboo subject which a lot of people don’t actually want to admit happens on campus,” Ibanez said. “Events like this are fantastic. It shows people that it does happen. Don’t be afraid to speak up.”
According to its event page, the run serves “to raise awareness, inspire the USC community to take a stand against this issue and show solidarity and support for survivors.”
Katya Lopatko, a junior majoring in international relations, served as the organization’s project manager for the campaign. Lopatko and her team started planning the event last semester and created a promotional video for the campaign with the help of an animator.
“It’s really cool to see it in real life,” Lopatko said of the event turnout. “We were excited by how many views the video got and how many people were liking the page, saying they would come. It means a lot that people showed up and care about the issue.”
Eduardo Melchior, a senior majoring in business administration and management, serves as president of Trojan Marketing Group. He said that he experienced some challenges in the planning, but it was a very rewarding experience overall.
“Creating a campaign for such a delicate issue without offending anyone was challenging for me,” Melchior said. “But I believe we did a good job with reaching out to everyone in the community and coming forth to help.”
He believes that having an event in real life generates even more awareness than just a social media initiative.
“Having something around social media is good, but you eventually need one place where people see, physically, that there’s something happening on campus,” Melchior said. “We believe this can be a celebration where people can come together and show their solidarity against [this problem] and their support to end [it].”
Valerie Lopez, a sophomore majoring in law, history and culture, decided to run after seeing the event on Facebook.
“I’m running for the survivors I know at USC,” Lopez said. “I think it’s a really important issue that has affected a lot of people I know. It’s affected me.”
Lopez believes that awareness is the first step toward making progress on sexual assault.
“I think the more the school can do for the issue, the closer we’re going to be to ending it,” Lopez said. “I don’t think people are aware of how big of a problem it is. Hopefully people will talk about it more — this is the first step we can take.”
Joyce Lee, a senior majoring in public relations and sociology, also participated in the It Ends Here run/walk. She ran to combat the stigma of being a victim and show her support for her friends and others affected.
“Sexual assault is an issue that’s very prevalent on all college campuses,” Lee said. “I have a lot of friends who have been very affected by it, but felt like they weren’t able to talk about it or be open to the issue because of the stigma associated with being a victim.”
Trojan Marketing Group will hand off the event to USG to run in future years. Lopatko hopes that the campaign will reach more students as it continues.
“I think our main focus was trying to spread awareness about sexual assault in a positive, empowering way,” Lopatko said. “We’re trying to emphasize that we have the power and responsibility, as USC students, to put an end to the issue on campus.”