UCSAStudents across the UC system voted to launch UConsent last week, a UC Student Association (UCSA) campaign that aims to support student survivors of sexual assault through student education and advocacy.

Geared toward promoting conversations on consent and preventative measures against sexual violence, UConsent won the majority vote at the Aug. 17 UCSA Congress as a response to UCSA’s call to increase resources to prevent sexual assault after the two gang rape incidents in Isla Vista last winter. Comprised of members from the UC Board of Regents, campus police representatives and student conduct officers, victim advocacy groups, campus Title IX officers, administrators and students, the UC task force will attempt to develop the best practices for sexual violence prevention, investigation and response on a system-wide and campus level.

Associated Students External Vice President of Statewide Affairs and a member of the UCSA Board of Directors Melvin Singh said an important aspect of the UConsent campaign will involve student education and involvement.

“With the fight against sexual violence being a huge national topic as well as within the UC System, this campaign called for the student traction it needed,” fourth-year political science major Singh said in an email.

Director of the Women’s Center at UCSB Jill Dunlap said there are many approaches to combatting sexual violence at UCSB, such as bystander intervention programs that are “national in scope.” Dunlap also heads the Campus Advocacy Resources & Education (CARE) program, another resource for responding to the needs of students who are impacted by stalking, domestic violence and sexual assault.

“Some research supports peer education as an effective model, and other research shows that prevention education programs should be done in a gender-segregated environment and conducted by professional staff member experts,” Dunlap said.

According to Dunlap, reaching students will be one of the biggest challenges UConsent faces.

“Traditionally, students have either seen prevention education programming as unnecessary because they don’t see themselves as ever being impacted by dating violence, stalking or sexual assault, or as potential perpetrators,” Dunlap said via email, “so they think prevention education doesn’t apply to them.”

Dunlap said training community members would provide survivors better support from friends and family before they move forward to seek counseling. Currently, CARE liaisons throughout campus are trained with a special emphasis on “hard to reach” populations of students and on how to support a friend who is impacted by interpersonal violence, Dunlap said.

“This allows students to invest in the training without admitting vulnerability to either victimization or perpetration,” Dunlap said in an email. “This also supports the research that the vast majority of students who tell someone about their experience tell a friend or roommate or family member first, as opposed to coming straight to our office.”

According to Dunlap, her department has received a lot of support in the form of funding from UCSB administration and has recently given funding to hire an additional part-time prevention educator whose sole responsibility is helping coordinate prevention education efforts for students on campus.

“We will be able to increase our visibility on campus, increase the number of prevention programs that we offer and strengthen the existing programs that we coordinate,” Dunlap said in an email.

Singh said he hopes UConsent will continue making UCSB a stronger community, not just in terms of preventing sexual assault, but overall.
“With conversations, I believe the campaign not only seeks to fight against sexual violence and the logistics to do so, but also to make students more cognizant of how we treat and interact with each other,” Singh said in an email.

The goal of the next UCSA meeting is to develop details of how the campaign will function. The lead campus organizing director position will be vacated in September and subsequently UCSA will begin an interview process to find a suitable replacement. This person will work alongside Singh, UCSA and the university to expand the campaign across the campus.

A version of this story appeared on page 8 of Wednesday, August 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.