Today is the last day students will be handing out those bright blue “It Affects Me” shirts, as the annual campaign against sexual violence draws to a close today after a weeklong run.
Campus groups Students Stopping Rape and Men Against Rape joined forces with the Women’s Center this year for the “It Affects Me” campaign, which is aimed at facilitating discussion about rape and sexual assault and educating students about their consequences. The student groups have already passed out almost 1,000 free T-shirts printed with the campaign’s slogan, and also hosted numerous events around campus for their cause – including a harassment seminar, a “Guess the Rapist” workshop and a pop culture and sexual assault trivia game.
The groups culminated the week’s events at a rally in Storke Plaza on Thursday, featuring a keynote address by women studies professor Grace Chang. Chang shared her personal story with the group of roughly 20 attendees about her experiences as a survivor of sexual assault.
As part of an effort to spread the word about the “It Affects Me” campaign, a few local officials – including Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum and UCSB Dean of Students Yonie Harris – helped organizers distribute T-shirts and attended some of the week’s events.
“This event caught my eye because when I was in college, rape was not talked about at all. It was a shame,” Blum, who was visiting campus Monday, said. “Now, not only do we talk about it, but we educate people on how to stop it.”
Organizers of the awareness week said the goal of the campaign was to show all members of the UCSB community that even if they have not dealt with rape personally, they are not untouched by the effects of sexual assault. Deborah Svidler, a media intern at the Women’s Center and a second-year psychology and Spanish major, described some of the ways in which everyone is affected.
“A lot of people feel it doesn’t affect them but it does,” Svidler said. “Anytime a girl is afraid to walk home alone, or a guy is judged as dangerous simply because he is a guy, or even when someone is bothered by music videos played on MTV, they are being affected.”
Fourth-year Global Studies major Romy Frazier, who was sporting an “It Affects Me” shirt on Thursday, said she thought the program has been growing more and more successful each time, especially in the last few years.
“I wore the T-shirt to bring more visibility to a very good campaign,” Frazier said. “This campaign has been more and more effective over the three years I’ve been here. They had some very good events lined up this year. Plus the shirts were pretty cute this year.”
Dean of Students Yonie Harris, who helped pass out T-shirts Wednesday, said that the ambiguity of the shirt’s message was part of its goal.
“The number one point is that the shirt is intentionally unclear and ambiguous. It’s a conversation starter. I had people coming up to me, asking what ‘It’ is, and that’s exactly what we wanted. The solution starts with conversation,” Harris said.
This is the fifth year the Students Stopping Rape and Men Against Rape groups teamed up to organize the campaign. Each year, the groups have had to order more shirts to give out than they had for the previous year, and this year seen the biggest demands yet – as 1,000 shirts were ordered. By Wednesday, all of the small and medium sized shirts had been given out.
In addition, Blum said a large percentage of the shirts were handed out to men – a fact she was particularly proud of.
Vice Chancellor Michael Young, who also helped pass out T-shirts this week, said he was happy to see so many students become involved in a cause – even if they were doing so just by wearing the “It Affects Me” T-shirts in support of the campaign. He said this year’s successful weeklong event is illustrative of an overall trend of increasing student activism at UCSB.
“I think it’s important that students are engaged in a variety of issues,” he said. “Whether that be getting students to resister to vote for the nationwide elections or raising awareness of sexual assault, all that activity contributes to a healthy and vibrant community.”