UC Berkeley community promotes support for domestic violence survivors

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Members of the campus community discuss the need to publicize resources for survivors of survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence, and stress the importance of education and intervention beyond October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

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In the ASUC’s Student Advocate’s Office, UC Berkeley senior Catie Haddad works to support survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence.

Haddad, the office’s grievance division director, stressed the importance of education and intervention during and beyond October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to Haddad, it is crucial to fight injustice and recognize this violence as an intersectional issue that also disproportionately impacts communities of color, LGBTQ+ individuals and many more marginalized groups.

“Sexual and domestic violence are ubiquitously pervasive issues, and there are countless obstacles in place that may prevent or dissuade survivors of these kinds of harm from seeking support,” Haddad said in an email.

Data from campus’s MyVoice Survey, conducted in 2018, supported Haddad’s sentiments. According to the results of the survey, more than 10% of undergraduate students and 8% of graduate students said they have experienced relationship violence; almost 7% of staff and 4% of faculty reported the same.

While the survey was based on self-disclosed information, ASUC Senator Kalliope Zervas suggested there are many survivors who may feel too scared to report or not know how to report the violence. Zervas added that many survivors may be unaware of violence from their partners and stressed the need to publicize resources to create a safer environment for survivors to come forward.

“The promotion of resources and support groups through the ASUC can help survivors feel comfortable enough to come forward,” Zervas said in an email. “At the end of the day, no survivor should ever be scared to report domestic violence.”

Through the Student Advocate’s Office, survivors can receive information on campus and city programs, including PATH to Care and the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination, or OPHD, according to Haddad. From there, Haddad said survivors can make decisions on whether they want to pursue formal reporting or not and what support systems they want to utilize.

Among other campus resources, the PATH to Care Center provides confidential support to survivors, including assistance with academic or housing support options, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

Gilmore added that campus offers many other resources, including the Ombuds Office for Students and Postdoctoral Appointees, University Health Services’s Counseling and Psychological Services, Basic Needs Center and BearWalk to promote student safety and create support systems for survivors.

“The PATH to Care Center, through the many prevention programs they offer, are trying to change the culture at UC Berkeley to one that does not place blame on survivors for disclosing,” Gilmore said in an email. “PTC offers resources on how to support and respond with care and concern to someone who discloses.”

OPHD has also adjusted its office to better respond to reports and conduct investigations to support survivors, according to interim associate director of investigations Elizabeth Rome. Rome, who is also campus’s deputy Title IX officer, noted how the office can speak to survivors sooner and provide better information on resources to further its goal of preventing all forms of sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH.

Both Haddad and Gilmore spoke on events organized by student and campus organizations during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Gilmore noted the PATH to Care Center’s SVSH brown bag discussion and its conversation on coercive control and gaslighting, while Haddad emphasized the work done by the ASUC’s Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Violence commissions.

“As SVC’s former Chair and having worked with IPVC, both of these campus bodies collaborate both with administration and campus organizations as well as with ASUC elected officials on policy, trainings, and survivor-centered events, both on and off campus,” Haddad said in an email.

The Sexual Violence Commission will hold an event Nov. 15 in collaboration with the ASUC Senate, according to Haddad. Zervas, however, said she felt campus could do more to provide support to survivors and alleged many more services are offered by the city than campus.

Zervas alleged this lack of resources and support has left some survivors “in the dark” and said her office is hosting a social media campaign to make essential resources more accessible to students.

“It is time for the ASUC to step up, hold the University accountable for this, and make the resources available more known,” Zervas said in an email.

Contact Aditya Katewa at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @adkatewa1.