Several community and campus organizations have joined forces to host a Sexual Assault Awareness campaign, posting provocative message boards along campus bike paths in addition to other activities and events aimed at sexual assault prevention and awareness.
In response to the proliferation of sexual assault-related UCSB campus alerts, on-campus organizations — including the External Vice President of Local Affairs, the Women’s Center and Take Back the Night — as well as community groups, such as Planned Parenthood and the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, have come together to educate students and local residents on issues of sexual violence.
Jill Dunlap, director of the Campus Advocacy, Resources and Education (CARE) program at the Women’s Center, said Santa Barbara County holds a responsibility to acknowledge ongoing sexual assault-related reports.
“I think the County Supervisor’s office was just wanting to feel like they were doing something to help combat some of the concerns that were coming their way about the different campus alerts that go out,” Dunlap said.
Alex Moore, co-chair of Take Back the Night, said the collaborative aspect of the campaign separates it from previously futile endeavors.
“One of the biggest things that sets this campaign apart is that it’s a collaboration,” Moore said. “A lot of times our organizations, sadly, work independently … Sometimes we expend a lot of resources and we don’t get a lot of effect.”
The first phase of the three-part campaign begins this week, focusing on common excuses made in reference to sexual assault. The EVPLA Office and other groups have posted large message boards displaying phrases such as “We were both SO drunk.” and “She was being a tease — she said no but she really meant yes.” along campus bike paths.
According to Moore, the “excuses” shown on these boards are intended to help stimulate students’ thinking on the topic, potentially opening up the conversation on sexual violence and encouraging it to make positive progress.
“A lot of people are unaware of the debate around sexual violence because they have these cultural or societal excuses,” Moore said. “The first stage of the campaign challenges those.”
The second phase of the campaign will focus on consequences that perpetrators of sexual assault sometimes face, as EVPLA Rhandy Siordia said the campaign will then address different kinds of retribution facing predators.
“The consequence phase … is going to include consequences on the university level, like different kinds of university sanctions, and also on a legal level,” Siordia said.
Moore also said many people are unaware of potential university-level measures taken against perpetrators of sexual assault.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but you can be reported for sexual violence not just through legal means … but also through judicial affairs,” Moore said. “You can be suspended from the school, expelled from the school … a number of academic consequences.”
After the consequence phase, the final phase of the awareness campaign will focus on statistics. Dunlap said that while completely accurate statistics are impossible, it is still necessary to at least publicize estimated numbers.
“There’s no perfect statistic … I think roughly between two and five percent of sexual assaults are actually reported to law enforcement,” Dunlap said. “But I think it’s important for people to realize this is the number of people that come into this office and are using campus resources because they’ve been impacted by sexual violence.”
Moore said this campaign is geared toward shifting blame away from the victim and onto the perpetrator, as opposed to conventional methods of sexual assault campaigning that solely address the victim. On a worldwide level, similar campaigns — such as Canada’s “Don’t Be That Guy” marketing campaign — are becoming more popular.
“This doesn’t focus on the survivor. It focuses entirely on the mindset of the assailant, or the harasser or the guy in Isla Vista who gets a little bit drunk and thinks this is okay,” Moore said. “This is never, ever, ever the survivor’s fault … We need to focus on the people committing these offenses and the culture that considers this normal.”
According to Dunlap, the campaign should go beyond targeting just perpetrators and aim to also address those who have not directly encountered sexual violence.
“We all need to be watching out for everyone … It’s an ‘us’ issue,” Dunlap said. “It’s not just that women are potential victims and men are potential perpetrators. The majority of us are neither.”
However, the campaign’s most effective feature may be its ability to confront the core thoughts of students in a more raw and frank manner than similar efforts, according to Taja Davis, the county liaison for the EVPLA Office. She said the goal is to attract students’ attention and keep a steady hold on it, thus not allowing students to ignore or stray from the issue.
“It’s very blunt and blatant. It’s really in your face,” Davis said. “We’re really trying to grasp the students’ attention … you cannot not think about it once you pass it.”