Four UC Berkeley law students participated last week in an international symposium to further global understanding of sexual violence and various policy solutions.
The Missing Peace Symposium, co-hosted in Washington, D.C., by the UC Berkeley School of Law, ran from Thursday to Saturday and focused on current response mechanisms to sexual violence and what existing challenges impede a country’s proper reaction to the injustice.
Law students Michelle Ben-David, Amy Belsher, Anthony Bestafka-Cruz and Saira Hussain attended the symposium as a part of their ongoing research on countries’ accountability methods regarding sexual violence.
Belsher, Bestafka-Cruz and Hussain recently returned from completing field research about sexual violence in Uganda, and are all students in the law school’s International Human Rights Clinic.
“Our research is holistic and conceptualized,” Hussain said. “We’re looking at what recourse victims have and whether there are resources available to them.”
The students served as rapporteurs for the symposium and contributed to its final policy brief. They also provided logistic aid by taking notes throughout the event, tweeting and blogging its content, coordinating with organizers daily and eventually summarizing new information and developments provided during the conference.
The students met fellow researchers and networked with senior academics much more familiar with the concepts and challenges of the subject. They also attended lectures by experts from around the world, including political activist and Nobel Laureate Jody Williams.
“In order to promote a new generation of research, we promote young researchers and connect the dots between different generations of (them),” said Kim Seelinger, director of the Sexual Violence & Accountability Project at the law school’s Human Rights Center. “Cutting-edge discussion is very hard to get in a classroom.”
Ben-David attended the event as a Young Scholar, allowing her to directly network with other doctoral students and policymakers. She was the only law student selected among a group of mostly social science doctoral candidates because of fieldwork she completed in Liberia last semester.
“We brought together a very interesting mix of experts … and our ultimate goal (was) to find the missing piece, or why it takes place only in some settings,” said Masha Keller, program and office manager at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Berkeley Law funded the students’ trip and allowed them to gain information supplemental to their on-campus studies. According to Seelinger, students had the opportunity to expand and improve knowledge they have gained from their exploration in Africa and courses at UC Berkeley.
“They are learning all this new information, and they can reflect on the field and their own experiences,” Seelinger said. “They interrogate what is really happening, and it helps them conceptualize and be more critical of the information.”
Contact Claire Chiara at [email protected]