CalSERVE to educate students about rights for sexual assault survivors

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CalSERVE’s campus mobilizing office launched a campaign earlier this month to educate UC Berkeley students about the rights of sexual assault survivors under Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs that receive federal funding.

The CalSERVE campaign, Know Your IX, aims to spread awareness of survivors’ rights, which include a formal disciplinary hearing, stay-away orders against their assailants and access to resources such as counseling and medical services.

Campaign outreach will include distributing fliers on Sproul Plaza and hosting events such as a solidarity circle to provide a safe space for survivors to share experiences, a town hall on sexual assault and Title IX workshops throughout the school year, according to Ali Arman, a CalSERVE campus mobilizing coordinator.

“As a gender and women’s studies major and a sexual assault survivor, I consider myself pretty up-to-date on education issues, but I didn’t know about the rights provided to survivors under Title IX,” Arman said. “Before you can demand your rights, you have to know them.”

The campaign follows other campuswide efforts to address sexual assault, such as the ASUC Office of the President’s Cal Consent Campaign and declaration of November as the campus’ sexual assault awareness month.

In August, the California Joint Committee on Legislative Audit unanimously approved an audit of UC Berkeley’s Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, which is responsible for responding to complaints of sexual harassment and providing sexual harassment training and education to the university’s community.

The audit addresses a federal complaint filed by nine UC Berkeley students in May that claimed the campus mishandled and underreported cases of sexual assault.

The audit will include the review of the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination as well as the equivalent offices at UCLA and two other CSU campuses that have yet to be determined, said Sofie Karasek, a UC Berkeley junior who was the lead complainant and helped file the audit.

“Everyone knows sexual assault is common, but the administration has made little change for the past 40 years, because they benefit from the silence of survivors,” Karasek said. “Admitting that sexual assault happens on campus or having numbers that reflect incidences makes folks less interested in Berkeley.”

The CalSERVE campaign is part of a national Know Your IX movement that aims to educate all college students in the United States about their rights under Title IX so sexual violence survivors can speak about their cases — and demand action from their universities — during their schools’ grievance proceedings and file a complaint against their colleges with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights if the Title IX rights are not respected.

“It’s been normalized to be ignored by the administration, but survivors are realizing that while this is common, it is not OK —  and in fact, illegal,” Karasek said. “It’s so important to educate students about their rights under Title IX and the Clery Act because they need to know that they are not alone, that structures existing to support survivors must be held accountable to their mission, and that our rights are protected under federal law.”

Contact Chloee Weiner at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @_chloeew .