Sunday, December 9

Submission: Bruin Consent Coalition affirms support for plaintiff in fraternity lawsuit


We at Bruin Consent Coalition stand with the survivor who is suing the Interfraternity Council and the Zeta Beta Tau and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternities following the report she made against a former member of Zeta Beta Tau in January 2017.

We are dismayed that yet again an assault has taken place on our campus, and we commend UCLA Title IX Office’s decision to expel the reported assailant in November. Our hearts go out to the survivor as she seeks justice and healing.

We are also aware of the gross abuse of power and privilege that contributed to covering up the assault. In light of not only the #MeToo movement, but systemic injustices that have exacerbated rape culture as well, we are all too familiar with this dangerous pattern. We urge members of the UCLA community to see this case as evidence that the fight against rape culture on our campus is far from over.

Each one of us has an obligation to hold ourselves and others accountable for dismantling this destructive paradigm instead of upholding a culture of silence and complicity.

At Bruin Consent Coalition, we strive to raise awareness about sexual violence and educate the campus community about consent. And there is a way to prevent future instances of rape and abuse of power on this campus.

The first step is for UCLA to increase the accessibility of mental health resources, such as for Counseling and Psychological Services and Center for Assault Resources and Education. One in 13 people are at risk of suffering anxiety disorders and the potential for survivors of sexual assault is even greater. These campus centers are grossly underfunded and over capacity. At CAPS, survivors seeking counseling may have to wait weeks before they can see a professional, and even then their visits are capped at three to six times a quarter.

And while CARE can provide immense support to survivors pursuing action through the criminal court system or Title IX, their services are limited by understaffing issues: One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted in college, yet there are only two CARE advocates on campus. As the top public university, with more than 40,000 students, we must do better. As shareholders of this institution, we demand UCLA hire more trauma-informed, licensed counselors that specialize in addressing the needs of sexual assault survivors.

The second step is to increase visibility for sexual violence trainings for fraternities, student organizations and the broader campus community. There are currently a number of sexual assault awareness and prevention trainings for students and organizations on campus. These include, but are not limited to, those conducted by Bruin Consent Coalition in collaboration with CARE, and those conducted by CARE’s new Peer Educator Program. The trainings cover topics such as the definitions of consent and sexual assault, bystander intervention, resources for survivors and how intersecting identities can shape a survivors’ experiences and reporting options.

Consequently, students and faculty have the opportunity and resources to educate themselves about consent and sexual violence. If we want to change our culture for the better, we must first learn how to identify and break away from damaging societal norms.

Finally, if we as a community want to eradicate rape culture, we must normalize conversations about consent, sexual violence and healthy relationships. Bruin Consent Coalition programs events and discussions surrounding sexual violence and prevention, and we invite the campus community to collaborate in raising awareness around the issue.

For instance, in October, we have events that observe and show support for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. These scheduled events include, but are not limited to, the “Love Shouldn’t Be Scary” photo campaign in Kerckhoff Art Gallery and a purple candlelight display near the end of the month. The candlelight display will feature over 1,000 purple electric candles to shine a light on and show solidarity for survivors of relationship violence. Additionally, we will be giving out these candles so students can directly participate by placing them in their window.

These kinds of dialogues and programs not only facilitate learning, but also encourage healing for survivors by creating safe spaces on our campus.

Certainly, dismantling a system of rape culture may seem an impossible task for any one person, but everyone has a role in eliminating instances of sexual violence on campus. While the issue is far-reaching, acknowledging its prevalence and identifying possible solutions is a start. With further access to mental health resources, trainings for individuals and organizations, and extensive dialogue about consent and healthy sexual interactions, we as a community can demand that our culture support survivors.

We hope this latest case prompts the IFC to hold the responsible parties accountable and reaffirm that abusive behavior is not acceptable. We wish peace and privacy for the survivor involved and sincerely hope that due process prevails.

Sincerely,

Paulette Orhii, co-director of Bruin Consent Coalition

Sophia McMurry, co-director of Bruin Consent Coalition

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