Campus ought to reform its handling of sexual misconduct cases

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Jessica Khauv/Staff

The power of those who have survived sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH, has demanded that the nation, including our campus, focus on the issue that harms so many. At the foundation of this movement is the breaking of silence — calling out sexual assault and r-pe culture as it exists and occurs.

Here at UC Berkeley, we are witness to the recurring cycle of violence that usually ends with the university choosing to protect its reputation over being public about misconduct. We saw it with Sujit Choudhry, we saw it with Geoffrey Marcy, and we saw it when UC Berkeley mishandled at least eight Title IX cases. UC Berkeley has the opportunity to be a leader in believing and empowering survivors, in valuing students over reputation, in removing perpetrators from positions of power, and we, as students, must demand it do so.

As a campus community, we can and we must do more. While we can expect the administration to lead in protecting the community, we know that as students, we can push the agenda ourselves.

Progress must include both effective preventive public education and policies that outline and implement clear consequences and follow through for those who assault. Progress must be inclusive of students at the margins, and we must make sure our work is trauma-informed and intersectional.

Prevention cannot simply be a semi-mandatory Bear Pact presentation. Prevention looks like education that connects with students; it looks like mandatory SVSH prevention training annually for every student, graduate and undergraduate, so that we are intentionally educating and re-educating students; it looks like safe and equitable contracts for workers on this campus; it looks like empowering student leaders to take action within their spaces and to create a culture of consent and a culture that encourages speaking up.

Holding perpetrators accountable for their actions should not be a debate. There must be policies that clearly outline and detail appropriate consequences for engaging in sexual misconduct. This involves clarifying processes at the administrative level and streamlining processes so that they are clear and consistent. This also includes protecting Title IX legislation and making sure UC Berkeley is consistently in abidance.

As campus leaders, we ask ourselves what more could we be doing to support the healing and survival of all community members.

When we think of solutions, we must center survivors and believe their words.

Speaking for myself (Rizza Estacio), as a survivor who has never reported because of personal fears and who carries that reality into every day, every relationship, every moment, I know how detrimental the fear of not being believed can be.  As a survivor, I don’t want anyone speaking on behalf of my experiences, narrating to me how I, as a survivor, should feel on this campus, or creating policy that offers halfhearted solutions. I need policymakers who have a comprehensive understanding of survivors’ needs.

As three students who have volunteered ourselves to advocate, we root our work in our own experiences as women of color and the parallel experiences of marginalization many other students experience.

Our students have so many needs. We need perpetrators to be held accountable, not just receive slaps on the wrist; we need survivors to be part of that conversation; we need retribution for survivors; we need free counseling for survivors at the Tang Center; we need a reporting process that accepts anonymity when needed; we need counselors that will believe in us; we need answers.

We need justice for survivors on this campus.

We have worked with [email protected], Berkeley Student Cooperative’s Consent Working Group, Greeks Against Sexual Assault, the Queer Alliance Resource Center and a multitude of Registered Student Organizations, and we know there is so much students can do to push the campus into a consent-centric culture.

Sexual violence will only end when we are ready and willing to protect every body, every experience, every voice. We must support those who are already survivors and fight to keep others from becoming survivors. We must and we will put ourselves on the line for our students, and we demand that the University of California, in its entirety, do the same. #TimesUp.

Juniperangelica Cordova, Rizza Estacio and Nuha Khalfay are ASUC senators.