Website aims to streamline sexual harassment and violence information

Megan Messerly/Senior Staff

Related Posts

Launched Tuesday, UC Berkeley’s one-stop website for sexual harassment and violence information aims to educate members of the campus community and provide information for survivors about their rights and options following incidents of assault.

The website, first announced by Chancellor Nicholas Dirks in February, is part of a larger campus effort to address student concerns that the procedure for reporting cases of sexual assault to administrators is challenging to navigate. Though the website’s content consists of information that was previously accessible through other channels, the site’s objective is to merge the many resources available for addressing sexual harassment and violence.

UC Berkeley junior Sofie Karasek — who has spearheaded student organizing on campus against the administration’s alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases — supported the website’s introduction, saying it validates survivors and their feelings.

“For the first time, the administration is supporting survivors publicly and saying to survivors that it’s not our fault we’ve been assaulted,” Karasek said.

Campus administrators maintain that their services have always been available for survivors of sexual assault, though they hope the site clarifies procedures and federal policies.

“This is just one part of our continuing efforts to reach students,” said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore. “We want students to know that we’re here for them.”

Beyond providing information about reporting sexual assault, the website details medical care and mental health options. It also defines concepts such as consent and provides a guide for friends of those who have been assaulted. For individuals who may have been recently sexually assaulted, the website provides contact information for counselors and relevant authorities.

In the coming months, the website will be expanded to include more information for staff and faculty. Students working in the Gender Equity Resource Center, student advocate’s office and residence halls provided feedback prior to the website’s official launch.

UC Berkeley sophomore Meghan Warner, who was one of 31 students to file a federal complaint against the campus in February, criticized website creators for not directly reaching out to her and her fellow complainants, although she had a chance to provide feedback because of her job at the Gender Equity Resource Center.

“They didn’t reach out to any of the survivors who have spoken out publicly,” Warner said. “That’s frustrating.”

The site is one of many moving parts on campus and beyond that are working to address the preponderance of sexual assault against college students. Commissioned by Dirks last fall, the Title IX Compliance Advisory committee is currently reviewing campus policies to pinpoint areas in need of improvement.

President Barack Obama also created his own task force in January to address the growing number of students voicing complaints against college administrations for allegedly mishandling sexual assault investigations. The task force’s action plan will be submitted to Obama in the coming weeks.

At the state level, UC Berkeley and three other public schools in California are currently being investigated by the state auditor, who is examining their sexual assault policies and compliance with federal laws, with results slated to be released in June.

Contact Kimberly Veklerov at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KVeklerov.