Any Isla Vista local will recognize the scenes in the first of a three-video series addressing sexual assault in the community: sweeping shots of the Devereux bluffs, students biking to campus on Pardall Road, tied shoes hanging from power lines in the sky and a surfer on his way home after sunset.
Familiar faces from UC Police Department (UCPD) and the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office (SBSO), including Acting Lieutenant Matt Bowman, Interpersonal Violence Investigator Kovena Avila and Lieutenant Juan Camarena are seen throughout one of the videos echoing a simple sentiment.
“We stand with survivors.”
The videos are part of a push from the I.V. Safe Committee, aiming to both recognize April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and set a new tone for survivorship in I.V., according to Spencer Brandt, president of the I.V. Community Services District (I.V. CSD).
“[Sexual violence] is something that our community knows and takes very seriously already, but it was also important to try to debunk some of the myths that are around sexual violence both when it comes to law enforcement, when it comes to who can be made into a victim or survivor of sexual violence,” Brandt said.
The video series tackles attitudes toward sexual assault with a three-pronged approach, focusing on the role and support of law enforcement, prosecutors, friends and family during survivors’ times of turmoil. Each video includes members from the aforementioned communities discussing support for survivors in the legal and healing processes.
I.V. Safe Committee is a collaborative group composed of legal and government offices in I.V. and Santa Barbara. The committee is made up of the I.V. CSD, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, UCPD, SBSO, Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA) and more.
The committee and Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA), a UCSB student group advocating for survivor resources and ending sexual violence, worked on the videos together over the last months.
The videos were released just in time for April, Brandt said.
One of Brandt’s hopes was that the videos would do more to encourage survivors to come forward with their experiences. He said this is an important goal in addressing and solving sexual violence in the community.
“If we do not have more people feel comfortable going through and doing that, then it’s going to continue to be very difficult to solve a lot of these cases, and that really is the bottom line,” Brandt said.
Numbers from UCSB’s Title IX Office showed that there had been 320 individual reports of sexual violence in 2018, 140 instances of sexual harassment, 18 instances of sexual discrimination and 133 instances labeled “other.”
But Brandt noted the numbers of survivors who report incidents of sexual violence is far less than the number of people who actually experience it.
“The harsh reality is that sexual violence is both incredibly prevalent in the community and peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that the likelihood of survivors coming forward and reporting their assault to either a law enforcement agency or through other avenues is incredibly low,” Brandt said. “We’re looking at a number of about 10 or 20%.”
For Emily Montalvo-Telford, director of SASA, it was important that the working process of the videos included input from student voices, especially considering the intended audience of the videos.
“It’s always best to work with the community that you’re trying to send a message to and hearing [student] voices as a part of the conversation,” Montalvo-Telford said.
The conversation around sexual violence necessitated change, and the video series is a step in a better direction toward helping survivors by leaving behind the phrase “we believe survivors” for something more encompassing, Montalvo-Telford said.
“For me personally, believing survivors is a necessary step, but it’s not enough. It’s not sufficient. So the concept of ‘we stand with survivors’ is a commitment to support and a commitment to consistent allyship,” Montalvo-Telford said.
The videos is just one of many actions taken by I.V. community to create a safe environment for survivors and residents in general, Brandt said. This includes the hiring of an interpersonal violence investigator in November 2018 and the signing of agreement between I.V. CSD and STESA to create a survivor resource center in I.V. in January.
“Our community is, I think, really at the forefront of being able to create a culture where it’s both acceptable to talk frankly about these issues and also where we stand with survivors when they come forward and that we will believe them without any reservations whatsoever,” Brandt said.
A version of this article appeared on page 7 of the April 11th print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Sofia Mejias-Pascoe is an assistant news editor. She likes to read The New York Times, Washington Post and the tiny blurbs underneath random bottlecaps. She is a proponent of the term “YOLO.”