ASUC Sexual Violence Commission hosts conference for sexual assault awareness month

Aura Barrera/Staff

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About a dozen students gathered in Barrows Hall on Friday afternoon for the ASUC Sexual Violence Commission’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month conference.

The conference was reinstated this year after a two-year hiatus, aiming to provide a space for advocates to reflect and collaborate with one another. The event began with a speaker panel titled “Informed Allyship,” moderated by Sexual Violence Commission, or SVC, Director of Communications Corinne Biencourt.

The panel featured Prevention Coordinator at Bay Area Women Against Rape, or BAWAR, Laura Alberti, ASUC Student Advocate Sophie Bandarkar and Liat Wexler, Prevention Manager for Faculty and Staff at UC Berkeley’s PATH to Care Center.

Topics discussed on the panel included how harm differs in every case, anonymity and trauma-informed language.

“Being public currently about experiencing sexual violence and harassment means that you become a target, and nobody wants that,” Wexler said. “Anonymity is in some cases about self-protection from a real backlash that occurs.”

Alberti discussed how using trauma-informed language can empower survivors of sexual violence or harassment to handle their individual process in a way that is best for them. According to Alberti, part of empowerment when talking to survivors is “always mirroring any individual’s language.”

Following the panel, the conference split into two groups — one discussed sexual violence and sexual harassment advocacy in the ASUC and the other discussed Greek life against sexual violence and sexual harassment. Both groups had conversations facilitated by SVC members.

The conference then regrouped for the final group discussion, titled “Sustainable Advocacy.” The discussion was centered around types of burnout that advocates can experience and what self-care looks like to different people. According to Biencourt, the “productivity culture” in advocacy can lead to burnout.

“Reorienting our goals is a sign of growth, not regression,” Biencourt said.

According to SVC Assistant Chair Erika Casey, given that this was the first conference in two years, it was a success.

“It was a little difficult to get off the ground, but I’m proud that we pulled through. I’m proud that we got people here and that folks were engaged,” Casey said. “All things considered, I think it went really well and I think it was a really productive space for folks to learn from each other.”

According to Biencourt, starting the conference with a panel that discussed issues being dealt with by both the community and the commission was productive.

Casey said that she is hopeful that the dialogue seen in the conference will not stop.

“Moving forward, it’ll be important for the next year’s chair and the next year’s commission to start early, collaborate as much as possible and communicate as much as possible,” Casey said. “It’s the start to really important conversations that hopefully continue, and will hopefully just expand from here.”

Contact Maya Akkaraju at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maya_akkaraju.