Protecting the campus

Phoenix Delman/Staff

As a sexual assault survivor from high school, my healing process began when I came to UC Berkeley and confronted my experience — something I had chosen to ignore for a long time. As an ASUC senator, I worked to raise awareness about the issue of sexual assault with the help of several student leaders and CalSERVE coalition organizers who helped me gain the courage to speak out against the injustices of this violence. But we knew much more had to be done — and I knew our student body agreed. When I ran for ASUC president last spring, I promised to make this issue my first priority.

During the campaign, I talked to hundreds of students about a variety of important issues. However, the conversations I remember the most are the ones I had with other survivors. They bravely shared with me their experiences and told me about their hopes for making our campus a safer, more inclusive and more supportive place for everyone, a place free from assault and sexual violence.

It is this shared vision from students that guides me in office today. Since being elected ASUC president last April, I have worked tirelessly to represent students and fulfill the promises I made.

Within the first month of school, we formed the ASUC Office of the President Sexual Assault Task Force, composed of individuals from the Office of the President, Student Advocate’s Office and Office of the External Affairs Vice President, along with other student activists already working on the issue, to create a student-led team capable of addressing sexual assault holistically. The task force’s mission is to transform campus sexual assault policies, consolidate and improve services for survivors and engage in greater educational awareness campaigns around the issue.

In response to students organizing around the issue, namely the CalSERVE 6000 in Solidarity Campaign and the student-filed federal Clery Act complaint, the university initiated its own review of its handling of sexual assault this fall through the creation of the UC Berkeley Title IX Compliance Advisory Committee. As the committee moves forward in its work, I will ensure that student concerns are represented to administration and that the student-led, student-focused work of our task force holds the campus’s review accountable to students.

However, within our office specifically, the Sexual Assault Division leads the efforts to combat sexual assault. The division initiated the Cal Consent Campaign to better engage students in a conversation about sexual assault. Our Halloween poster series reminded students that an individual’s costume or outfit is never his or her consent.

This past Sunday, our office organized a 5k benefit run/walk for Bay Area Women Against Rape to not only continue public conversation but also support a local community organization that provides important resources and services for survivors. We had more than 45 runners participate, and we raised more than $320 for BAWAR. But this is only the beginning.

Moving forward, the Office of the President will continue the Cal Consent Campaign as we kick off our Sexual Assault Awareness Month throughout November. In a few weeks, we will launch another poster series for the Cal Consent Campaign to continue thought-provoking dialogues on and awareness of consensual interactions. The ASUC Office of the President will be hosting workshops on consent and rape culture. In addition, we will sponsor events, such as a survivor solidarity circle, that will provide a space for survivors to share with one another and build community. I encourage you all to attend Sexual Assault Awareness Month programs and to stay engaged with the Office of the President’s mission to fight sexual assault. For those interested in finding out more about the work our office does, visit my website at asucpres.wordpress.com.

Thank you to all of those resilient survivors and allies who have made these efforts possible. This issue is not easy to address, but together we can continue to advocate for those who are impacted by sexual violence every single day.

DeeJay Pepito is the ASUC president.