One in four women will experience rape or attempted rape by the time they graduate from college. There are over 20,000 students at UCSB. You do the math. Most people at UCSB don’t like that this is happening. The question is, if you don’t like that this is happening, what are you doing to stop it?

We all know survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence, but they may not have told you. Only a fraction of rapes are reported to the police, and survivors have many legitimate reasons not to share their stories with either the authorities or those close to them. Why would a survivor not tell anybody about the assault?

They might be worried that they will be blamed for the assault, but no one asks to be raped. If contact of a sexual nature lacks consent, it is sexual assault. Consent is an active, enthusiastic yes. Everything else, including silence or no reaction at all (say, if someone is passed-out drunk), is not consent. It is important not to blame survivors, but instead to hold the perpetrators of rape accountable for their actions. Survivors may also fear that they won’t be believed, especially if the perpetrator is an acquaintance — perhaps a mutual friend. The vast majority of rapes are committed by someone the survivor knows in a situation of trust. This means the perpetrator could be your neighbor, study partner, or hook-up, and it could happen in places like your own home.

Not only do we know survivors of rape, we also know perpetrators. I don’t mean to scare you into not having any acquaintances! The problem is not that people trust others, but the fact that perpetrators make an active choice to violate that trust. We should be able to trust those close to us. We must work together to prevent and end rape by believing survivors and standing up or speaking out against perpetrators and their actions.

Remember: It is highly likely that if you are with a group of people, someone there is a survivor of sexual violence. We can support them by being careful about how we talk about rape or other topics that desensitize us to the culture that supports sexual violence. Joking about rape, such as by saying, “I just raped that midterm!” creates an atmosphere in which rape appears to be OK, tolerated, and even seen as a positive matter.

During April, student organizations Students Stopping Rape and Take Back the Night are hosting Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2010. There will be guest speakers, including former NFL player Don McPherson, who will kick off the month on April 6 at 7 p.m. in Corwin Pavilion. There will also be several educational programs facilitated by peer educators on sexual assault. “Rock Against Rape,” a concert for student performers to speak out against sexual violence, occurs on April 9 at 6 p.m. at the SRB Multipurpose Room. Another performance is “Take Back the Mic,” which is a spoken word event, on April 15 at 7 p.m., also in the SRB Multipurpose Room. To close out the month-long campaign, there will be a “Take Back the Night” rally at 7 p.m. April 24 at Storke Plaza.

Students will be tabling in the Arbor throughout the month with free T-shirts. Find them there for more information and to get involved in ending this all-too-serious issue at UCSB!