It was an emotional night for the two dozen students who attended Fight Back Thursday evening, an ASUC-sponsored workshop addressing sexual violence and personal safety.
The event was organized by the ASUC Office of the President in conjunction with ASUC senators Sadia Saifuddin, Rosemary Hua and Megan Majd. In order to raise awareness of such crimes on campus, victims of sexual assault shared their stories.
According to a Berkeley Police Department crime report, there were 39 reported incidents of sexual assault in the city of Berkeley in 2012, up from 20 incidents in 2011.
“(Sexual assault) is something that doesn’t discriminate against color or gender,” Saifuddin said. “It’s something that happens to a lot of people.”
According to Bay Area Women Against Rape training coordinator Agustina Perez, 85 percent of sexual assaults are committed by a person whom the victim knows, and only one in 10 victims report the crime.
Student attendees included members of the campus sorority system and the ASUC. The workshop was facilitated by UCPD, University Health Services and BAWAR.
“(Events like Fight Back) allow survivors of sexual assault who are silenced to have a voice,” Hua said. “But it also allows for facetime between UCPD and students (and) facilities a discussion.”
Speakers at the event noted the importance of discussing sexual assault in an open and safe environment.
“The reason why sexual violence is rising at such alarming rates is because people don’t talk about it,” Perez said. “Anything that will get people to talk and create safe spaces is a step in the right direction.”
Community leaders provided attendees with resources to defend themselves against attack.
During the workshop, UCPD officers offered a pepper spray demonstration as well as basic self-defense techniques. Officers said one of the most basic but useful techniques in the case of an assault is to shout for help. The workshop also offered free pepper spray to participants.
“There is nothing that anyone can do that warrants (or) causes rape,” Perez said during her presentation. “The only person responsible for rape is the one committing it.”
Director and Title IX Officer Denise Oldman of the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination said that it is important to know that there are allies in the community for sexual assault victims. She addressed the various resources available to students, including medical, psychological and emotional health services, residential needs and prevention help.
Members of the ASUC and campus community alike said they hope events like Fight Back will educate the students that attended and continue to raise awareness about sexual assault and violence within the UC Berkeley community.
“I feel like it’s important to have events that raise awareness about how critical an issue (sexual violence is) both on campus and in general,” said sophomore Taylor Fugere, who is a member of Greeks Against Sexual Assault and involved in the Gender Equity Resource Center.
UCPD Officer Brendan Tinney said he hopes to see more involvement with sexual assault prevention from other groups on campus, such as fraternities.
“I think there’s some interest specifically in the part of fraternities, at least some of them,” Tinney said. “But I’m waiting for them to reach out. You don’t (only) teach the group that’s interested in the topic.”