University expands support for assault victims

Feb. 17, 2012, 2:08 a.m.

Halfway through its first academic year, the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse (SARA) Education & Response has established an initiative to get more male students involved in issues of sexual assault and relationship abuse, collaborating with other parts of the University to set up workshops and training sessions. In the future, the office plans to establish campus protocols for dealing with sexual assault, according to Angela Exson, assistant dean of SARA.


The University founded SARA last June to assist student victims of sexual assault and relationship abuse with subsequent personal and academic difficulties.


“The Office has been engaged in many facets of prevention and response from contributing to communication to incoming students, to delivering class lectures on violence against women, to assisting with the revisions to campus policies on sexual assault,” wrote Exson in an email to The Daily.


In recent months, two assaults and four peeping Tom incidents have been reported to campus police.


If peeping Tom incidents involve sexual misconduct, the SARA Office can address those cases, according to Exson. The protocol is to respond in a timely manner and help ensure the confidentiality of the victim. Appropriate notifications are then made to alert those who may be impacted, and further action is conducted on a case-by-case basis.


Awareness through education

Exson said SARA has collaborated with students, faculty, staff and other campus partners to assess the needs of the community and how the Office can best be of service.


“We have been conducting outreach, education and professional trainings to increase awareness of sexual and relationship violence,” Exson said.  “I have been working with students to create spaces for survivors to engage and support each other in addition to accessing campus and community resources.”


SARA has collaborated with Residential Education, the Graduate Life Office, iThrive at Stanford and the Office of Judicial Affairs, and has participated in their respective training efforts.


“We have worked with the Office of Alcohol Policy & Education (OAPE) on their ‘Say Something’ pilot program for bystander intervention, and in training the Sober Monitors for campus events,” Exson added in the email.


SARA has also established a Male Engagement Initiative, which asks men to assist with efforts to prevent and raise awareness of sexual and relationship violence.


The first event for this initiative will feature Kevin Powell, an acclaimed author, activist and media figure in the movement to end gender-based violence. Powell will speak at the Black Community Services Center in the Henry and Monique Brandon Family Community Room on Feb. 21.


SARA hopes to address the problem of sexual assault and relationship abuse by increasing awareness through education and spaces for dialogue.


“The best way to empower ourselves and each other is through factual knowledge of the underlying causes of all forms of sexual and relationship violence and in holding those who commit these violations accountable,” Exson said in the email.


Nicole Baran ‘00 is the founder and director of the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness, another resource for students. According to its website, the organization works, “to educate and train communities and institutions to respond effectively to women who are experiencing relationship abuse.”


“Our goal was to institutionalize a comprehensive response to these issues on campus,” Baran said. “Since that has been achieved, we are expanding to the broader community and other universities…Our office is now located off-campus.”


“We will continue to collaborate with the SARA office and provide training and education for the campus as needed,” Baran said. “Angela [Exson] will hire the Center to help with training and education initiatives.”


Future plans

Exson wrote in her email about SARA’s future plans, which include working toward implementing protocols to centralize the organization’s response structure and conducting outreach to students.


In an interview with The Daily on Sept. 30, Exson spoke about establishing protocol during the first year.


“There is policy for dealing with sexual assault policy but no protocol, and with relationship abuse, we have protocols but we don’t have policy in place,” Exson said in the interview.


“Sexual assault protocols and guidelines for relationship abuse have been drafted and we will begin the process of consulting with staff to assess and implement them during the spring quarter,” Exson said in this month’s email.


One of Exson’s other priorities is to increase SARA’s involvement with the graduate student community, “as they often have unique needs and concerns that we also want to support,” she said.


SARA will also work with student groups to participate in their planned initiatives and to organize programming events, including “a presentation and training on the issue of consent and how we all can be sure that it is effectively obtained to prevent sexual assault,” according to Exson.


“Since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we will be planning and collaborating on a number of events to promote education and sensitivity around this issue,” Exson added.


“The Office is faced with the challenge of dealing with issues that are often controversial and contested,” Exson said. “The greatest resource that we have and will continually need is the support of the campus and the expertise and assistance from students, faculty and staff to accomplish our mission and goals.”


“It is important to make a commitment to intervene and let someone know when you see or hear something that may subject yourself or someone else to vulnerability or danger,” she added.

Josee Smith is a senior this year, majoring in anthropology with a minor in Spanish. She is the desk editor for the student groups beat and has spent her last 3 years at The Daily as both a staff writer and contributing writer. Originally from Washington State, Josee came to California for the warm weather and stayed for the awesome reporting. To contact her, please email jsmith11 'a'

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