University of California Student Association selects UConsent as new campaign for sexual assault awareness

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At its annual conference this weekend, the University of California Student Association, a coalition of UC student leaders, selected UConsent as its new campaign to support student survivors of sexual assault.

UC Berkeley junior Meghan Warner and UCLA senior Savannah Badalich, both of whom are sexual assault survivors, founded the campaign, which will be focused on awareness, education and advocacy, in an effort to promote conversations about consent. Caitlin Quinn, the ASUC external affairs vice president, said UCSA’s support of the campaign will allow it to demand funding and programming from UC President Janet Napolitano and the UC regents.

With a focus on consent workshops and ensuring the campaign is centered on survivors, UConsent will be tailored to each campus to address each population’s needs, according to Warner, who is actively involved in a number of survivor advocacy groups.

“We want to make sure the other UCs have a lot of power and control so they can decide how the campaign looks on every campus,” Warner said. “Every UC has different environments, and we’ve seen other campaigns that try to insert one-size-fits-all models that don’t work.”

The campaign is loosely based on UCLA’s 7000 in Solidarity, Badalich’s campaign to create a safe, supportive and inclusive environment for sexual assault survivors that teaches consent education and bystander intervention efforts. What Badalich hopes to accomplish with UConsent is similar: to promote survivor support and to inform students of their rights and resources.

“We need to normalize the conversation around this kind of violence and not normalize the violence itself,” Badalich said. “This campaign is for everyone, because everyone is affected by sexual violence.”
According to Warner, one of the goals of the campaign will be to reform the process for reporting cases of sexual violence and harassment, especially in terms of accessibility.

“We’re working with various communities and people of different identities on campus to make sure the wide range of sexual violence is addressed so we’re not just focusing on one type, because that excludes people who are survivors of other kinds of sexual violence,” Warner said.

Although the concrete plans for how the campaign will work on each campus have yet to be solidified, Warner hopes to expand Cal Consent Week on UC Berkeley’s campus and facilitate more community-based events in the Greek system and in residence halls.

The language around sexual assault is one of victim blaming, said Kevin Sabo, UCSA’s board chair. He said the campaign is a step in the direction of advocating a culture of affirmative consent and ensuring that students do not feel intimidated by the process of filing a sexual-assault complaint.

“When we start a dialogue about consent, it goes a long way in decreasing the likelihood of it happening, because people will become aware that if you do it, you will not get away with it,” Sabo said.

In addition to UConsent, UCSA is also continuing with its Fund the UC and IGNITE campaigns this year. The former aims to reform Proposition 13, a measure that keeps property taxes relatively consistent for homeowners and businesses, in an effort to bring in revenue for the UC system. The latter campaign’s focus is on recruitment and retention centers, as well as outreach to underserved high schools.

The federal government is currently investigating UC Berkeley and UCLA for alleged violations of Title IX, a law that prohibits students to be subjected to a hostile environment on the basis of sex. In June, Napolitano formed a systemwide task force to address sexual assault.

The UCSA’s board of directors will meet Sept. 6-7 at UC Berkeley, during which time Warner and Badalich will present an action plan for launching the campaign.

Contact Natalie Meier at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @nat_meier.