Scattered across the campus and Facebook are police sketches of the two men suspected of committing the past weekend’s act of sexual violence. It was not long before these two faces became familiar to Isla Vista and the campus community, but these two faces fail to represent the hundreds of other unreported perpetrators of sexual violence within our community.
At the UCSB Women, Gender & Sexual Equity department, the employees take turns watching over what they call “the survivor hotline,” a cell phone specifically for survivors that they can call to receive immediate assistance. Jill Dunlap, director of the C.A.R.E. program at WGSE informs us that for the past year they are averaging 40 new cases a quarter, all cases combined (sexual assault, dating/domestic violence and stalking). Of those new cases, they average 21 new sexual assault cases reported to them each quarter. To put that into perspective, that is four new cases a week, two of which are sexual assault cases.
Because of the underreporting of sexual violence and the social taboo surrounding the subject, many people remain unaware of just how frequently this crime occurs. The tragic events of the past weekend have somewhat shifted that awareness. The advocates at WGSE have been overwhelmed these past weeks with outreach from student and community organizations asking what they can do to help. They are grateful for the activism, but also want people to be aware of the unfortunate truth that these events are nothing new to them, and hope that the new energy behind the effort to make a difference does not dwindle.
The last week of February, UCSB’s Take Back the Night held #TakeBackTheStreets week to “stand together against the racism, misogyny, homophobia, and general bigotry that we are expected to ‘take as a compliment,’” finishing with a rally on Friday that began at Pardall tunnel and ended on Del Playa. The co-ops have also shown interest in organizing a rally as well as St. Michael’s University Church and UCSB VOX Voices for Planned Parenthood.
While rallies are important and effective at spreading awareness, it is crucial that we create long-term change by maintaining our activism beyond these final weeks of Winter Quarter. On March 8, the WGSE’s Campus Advocacy Resources & Education (C.A.R.E.) Program held its first Green Dot Bystander training, a one day hands-on training that provides participants with the skills to immediately prevent violence in their community. It empowers participants to intervene as a bystander and prevent sexual assault, dating violence and stalking in their communities. The free eight-hour workshop runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with lunch provided. For those unable to commit the time to attend the Green Dot training, C.A.R.E also offers a free one-time, two-hour training through which you can become C.A.R.E Connect certified. This training covers how to help if someone tells you they have been assaulted, how to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship, what resources are available on campus and in the community and what safe and effective actions you can take to make our campus a safer place.
Having students attend either or both of these training sessions will not only raise awareness, but also educate community members on what they can do to help. The Green Dot and C.A.R.E trainings may be a bigger time commitment than attending a rally, but they offer sustainable and effective ways to reduce the occurrence of sexual assault in our community. Jill Dunlap assures that as long as students show interest in these programs and want to receive the training, they will continue to hold them. To sign up for either of these training programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org and they will work with you to schedule a time for you to attend.
For those looking for a more long-term involvement in sexual violence activism, C.A.R.E. also provides a Violence Intervention and Prevention Internship (VIP) program. With the VIP program, interns will work five to seven hours/week throughout the quarter. Their work will provide them with valuable knowledge about interpersonal violence and the skills to educate others and actively prevent violence in their communities. They will also receive a mini-grant to complete an education or prevention based program or campaign that will create change in their own community. To learn more about the VIP program and to apply, visit the VIP program GauchoLink description under the jobs, internships and on-campus interviews tab. All applications are due March 17.
All of these rallies and intervention programs have one thing in common: A call for the formation of a stronger sense of community. The formation of this community is the only way we can hope to turn this trend around. The residents and business owners of Isla Vista, UCPD, students and campus faculty need to begin to work together to find a solution to this problem. We must not let the discussion die. The responsibility lies with us to prevent sexual violence. While ultimately education will prove to be the only way to truly end sexual violence, awareness and intervention are crucial steps that can be taken now. The UCSB Women, Gender & Sexual Equity department has been working since 1975 to carry out their vision of a world free of oppression and violence. It is time we join them.
Emily Potter is a second-year literature and sociology major.