Sometimes something horrible has to happen before people, or the media, take notice. This is exactly what happened after a 19-year-old UCSB student was beaten and raped on campus while on her way home February 23.
This was just one of several sexual assaults that have occurred in the Isla Vista area recently. Due to the nature of the attack, including the brutality of the incident (the victim ended up in the hospital), it has received a lot of attention. The whole community is asking why and how this could have happened.
Chancellor Henry T. Yang, in a letter addressed to colleagues and students, said, “Our campus community has been deeply shaken by the violent sexual assault on a UCSB student on our campus this past weekend, as well as other recent sexual assaults that have been reported in Isla Vista. These tragic incidents affect us all.”
He said he had authorized several improvements designed to enhance campus safety and welfare, including the hiring of five more police officers, the installation of additional lights and security cameras, and an increase in the number of staff providing sexual-assault-prevention education and counseling services.
Do Something Positive
Jill Dunlap, director of the Campus Advocacy Resources and Prevention (CARE) program, which is housed in the Women, Gender, & Sexual Equity Department at UCSB, said that the number of people contacting her organization increased after the attack. She said, “We’ve had people come in (who were victims of a sexual assault) and say that it was stirring things up.” For survivors, CARE offers counseling and other support services.
Others, however, have contacted CARE because they are angry and want to know how to channel their frustration into something positive. She said that they ask, “What can I do? How can I be part of the solution?” For CARE representatives, Dunlap said this type of response is powerful. They have a number of programs in place to train students to combat sexual assault and abuse not only in their own lives but in those of people around them.
It Takes a Community
CARE has programs that range in depth from a two-hour overview to an internship that provides substantial training. Many people, 200 as of last quarter, according to Dunlap, take the two-hour training designed to provide an overview of how to support survivors of sexual assault, recognize the signs of abusive relationships, and so on.
Another option is a one-day course called Green Dot Bystander Training. This course provides a detailed look at ways to prevent sexual abuse. Participants are taught to recognize predation patterns and intervene. For example, Dunlap said a part of the training is to recognize typical patterns, such as isolating victims and plying them with alcohol. Students are taught ways to disrupt this pattern, without putting themselves in harm’s way. She said the solution could be as simple as distracting the people involved.
The third opportunity is through a new program called the Violence Intervention and Prevention Internship. Students are taught about interpersonal violence, are trained in how to educate others, and are going to be given a small grant to develop an advocacy program in their own community. “We want to empower students,” she said.
This type of training has a ripple effect, she said. Due to the number of people who have taken CARE’s two-hour training course as of last quarter, she said her office had seen an increase in the number of referrals. Dunlap said this is not surprising. Once people are educated to recognize the signs and patterns of this type of abuse, they are able to support their friends who may have had, or are having, an issue. Dunlap said that survivors often tell their friends about a sexual assault before they will contact a counseling service or authorities. Knowing that this is the case, CARE focuses on training a community of people who can provide support, intervention, and awareness.
One of the statistics Dunlap emphasizes is the fact that 90 percent of victims know their attackers. The assault last weekend was an anomaly rather than the norm. However, sexual assault is not unusual. One out of four college women are the victims of sexual assault, and 53 percent of victims do not report incidents. With statistics like these, raising awareness is a necessity.
Dunlap said that religious congregations and a variety of student groups had showed interest in raising awareness about the issue. UCSB’s Associated Students held a Take Back the Night rally, and members of the Greek system were planning on setting up a Facebook page related to safety. Also, UCSB VOX Voices for Planned Parenthood rallied last Friday for community unity and public safety. “I think it has made people be intentional about safety,” Dunlap said.
For more information about CARE programs, call (805) 893-3778. For the crisis hotline, call (805) 893-4613.