April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and starting this week, UC Berkeley will host several events — rallies, healing sessions and trainings — to engage the campus in building a stronger culture of consent and respect in which sexual harassment and violence are not tolerated.
Tomorrow, April 6, the campus community will come together to Take Back the Night from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Sproul Plaza. The annual event, held in more than 30 countries each year, is dedicated to empowering allies and survivors to take a stand against sexual and intimate-partner violence. Attendees can pick up a free T-shirt or grab a bite to eat and settle in for a night of performances and speakers. Once the sun goes down, the crowd will hold a candlelight vigil honoring survivors of sexual violence in a safe space of healing and support.
On Friday, April 8, at 3 p.m., poets, singers and other supporters are invited to sign up and Break the Silence with CalSLAM for a free open mic event at the MLK Student Union. Or join a women-of-color healing circle at the Multicultural Community Center on Wednesday, April 13, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Sport your favorite pair of jeans on Wednesday, April 27, in observance of Denim Day 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, she must have helped the perpetrator remove them, thereby implying 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.
A list of events, which will be updated throughout the month, can be viewed on the Sexual Violence Prevention and Support website or Facebook page; you can connect with students using the hashtag #UCBSAAM.
In the past year, UC Berkeley has introduced a number of new initiatives to address and prevent sexual harassment, assault and violence. Chancellor Nicholas Dirks released a statement in March outlining the new plans and expressing his commitment to creating a safer campus.
“We have an obligation to promote a campus culture in which sexual harassment, sexual violence, stalking and any abuse of power are neither tolerated nor ignored, but proactively prevented,” said Dirks. “We are committed to ensuring that Berkeley is a welcoming, safe, respectful and inclusive community for every one of our students, staff, faculty and visitors.”
In March, history professor and College of Letters and Science Executive Dean Carla Hesse was appointed interim lead for Berkeley’s efforts to improve the campus’s response to sexual harassment and assault. Among her duties, Hesse will establish and train a campus peer review panel for sexual harassment cases and establish protocols for the regular tracking of the number and nature of reports received and responses made, among other responsibilities.
The campus offers many resources for those who have experienced sexual harassment and violence, from information on how to support a sexual violence survivor and reporting options to confidential care advocates, who are available to provide non-judgmental, caring support.
Learn more about UC Berkeley’s sexual assault prevention and response efforts.