Campus supports sexual assault awareness month

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and to build consciousness about the issue, students, faculty and staff have been hosting events throughout the month that give the campus community tools to prevent sexual assault, create a stronger culture around consent and support survivors

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Sawhel Maali (left) and Kayla Razavi (Photo by Mikaela Raphael)

Last week, students led Cal Consent Week, a series of workshops and discussions about issues such as protests, state and federal policy changes, the importance of teaching healthy masculinity and how to empower survivors of sexual assault. Students kicked off the week with a whiteboard photo campaign that featured descriptions of what consent means to them. “This messaging is applicable to every single person who walks on campus,” said Meghan Warner, director of the ASUC Sexual Assault Commission, which organized the event. “Consent doesn’t just apply to sexual situations either, but respect for other people’s boundaries, personal space and privacy.”

To see more photos from the week, visit the Cal Consent Campaign Facebook page.

Tonight (Thursday, April 23), from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., people plan to gather at Sproul Plaza to rally and march as part of Take Back the Night, aimed at ending sexual violence in all forms in a safe space of support. There will also be spoken-word and dance performances, and an opportunity for community members to speak during open mic. Take Back the Night is an international, nonprofit organization that inspires hundreds of events held in more than 30 countries each year.

Wednesday (April 29) is Denim Day, a day to wear jeans to show support for sexual assault survivors. Denim Day grew from a 1999 court ruling in which the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction, arguing that because the victim was wearing tight jeans when she was assaulted, she was giving consent. The ruling provoked outrage, and wearing denim on the anniversary of the ruling became an international movement to protest misguided attitudes about sexual violence and what constitutes consent.

The Alameda County district attorney’s office held a forum Tuesday (April 21) on Sproul Plaza to provide resources and information about victims’ rights as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. There are also banners around campus that read “It’s On Us,” as part of a White House campaign to protect students from sexual assault.

In fall 2014, Mari Knuth-Bouracee was named Berkeley’s director of sexual assault prevention and student advocacy, providing confidential support for survivors of sexual assault and those who have experienced gendered violence including sexual harassment and dating violence. Appointments can be made with an advocate by calling (510) 642-1988, or emailing mknuth@berkeley.edu to learn more about options, rights and resources.

Last year, the campus created the Stop Sexual Violence campaign to inform, educate and make available the resources needed to stop sexual violence. The campaign’s goal is to “foster a culture that prioritizes consent and respect, and responds to and supports survivors and their allies.” To achieve that goal, the campaign addresses the issue from multiple angles, from student empowerment to psychological counseling to the campus police. A series of videos, created by UC Berkeley Public Affairs, represent the thousands of staff, faculty and students dedicated to ending sexual violence at UC Berkeley.

Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks released a statement in January that outlined the steps the university has taken to strengthen campus response to sexual violence and assault. “Students and administrators have been working diligently to create a culture of prevention, support and accountability,” he said. “While there is certainly more to do, we are making progress thanks to our community’s engagement, concern and participation.”

For a complete list of this month’s events, visit the UC sexual violence prevention and response website.