By Arianna Puopolo
City on a Hill Press Editor
Twenty-five percent of college students — one in every four — are victims of rape or attempted sexual assault.
The Rape Prevention Education (RPE) office, located at Kresge College, aims to decrease that statistic. Gillian Greensite opened the RPE office in 1979, and 15 years ago she started offering rape awareness and prevention programs to incoming freshmen at the 10 colleges on campus.
Though Greensite has offered to come and speak to each college, in her 15 years at this position there has never been an occasion when every college was willing to participate, she said.
This year, in fact, only half of the colleges accepted Greensite’s invitation. Most recently, Merrill removed RPE from its core curriculum.
“The five colleges, including Merrill, whose students don’t receive this education are putting their students at a disadvantage,” Greensite said. “Students who are not educated do not have their awareness raised about rape and other violent issues.”
Although Assembly Bill 1088 mandates that every public postsecondary institution in California offer RPE to all its students, Greensite’s program remains nonmandatory.
Vice Chancellor Felicia McGinty’s office monitors and enforces UCSC’s compliance with policies and ordinances. The Title IX office submits an official report to the Office of the President, which McGinty’s office collects and reviews at the end of each year.
“Our responsibility is to alter the programming and create interest,” she said. “It hasn’t been a large-scale issue [on campus] but it is very concerning, and education is key.”
However, with only half of the colleges participating, the university’s level of education continues to wane.
“There is certainly a lot more we can do to make sure students are getting the same information,” McGinty said. “The greatest thing is that it is happening in multiple places, but the challenge for me is understanding what services are available for every student.”
While the university attempts to address the requirement of Assembly Bill 1088 through online “courses,” whether or not the five colleges that refused Greensite’s invitation follow through completely in providing electronic RPE for students is not confirmed, and, in the case of colleges who did allow Greensite to speak, electronic “attendance” is not enforced.
First-year Alex Rich questioned the importance of RPE before attending Greensite’s program at orientation.
“At the time I thought it was mandatory so I showed up because of that,” Rich said.
He ended up gaining a lot from the experience, he said, and he encourages all students to attend.
“It could help save somebody’s life one day or keep them from getting raped,” Rich said. “It’s only a short speech that she gives — what’s more important than learning about that?”
Thanks to his residence assistants at Cowell and to Greensite’s program, Rich understands the importance of RPE, he said, and he is now familiar with the resources available to sexual assault victims.
The Title IX office at Kerr Hall and some of the individual college offices across campus have joined Greensite in trying to spread information about RPE.
Rita Walker is responsible for accepting and filing sexual harassment or assault reports through the Title IX office. She said that 98 percent of the reports she processes involve acquaintances. In such cases, she said, victims of sexual assault are far more hesitant to file a complaint because they don’t want to violate the trust of their friends or create uncomfortable social situations.
To help students manage the social shrapnel that often ensues following an incident of sexual assault, Greensite developed a peer education program that allows students to talk about rape and sexual assault with fellow students, some of whom have survived sexual assault themselves.
Nina Milliken is a third-year Latin American and Latino studies major, second-year peer educator and rape survivor.
Milliken and the other peer educators are responsible for organizing three RPE workshops each quarter, as well as attending four meetings with Greensite to discuss how to better educate and assist students.
One of the most important discussions peer educators have with student audiences involves debunking the commonly believed myths that surround sexual assault and rape issues, Milliken said.
Creating awareness about the reality of acquaintance rape is also a common and important discussion among peer educators, Milliken said, since many people do not realize that the vast majority of sexual assaults happen at the hands of an attacker known by the victim.
“In reality a lot of women will hesitate to go out at night by themselves because of a mythical fear that a rapist is a stranger that will come out of the dark,” Milliken said.
Milliken explained that rape is not limited to this stereotype.
“Anybody can be raped by anybody at any time,” Milliken said.
Because of the delicate nature of topics like rape and sexual assault, Greensite emphasized the importance of having adequately trained personnel advising survivors of sexual assault.
Unfortunately, Greensite said the gap between what is designated as training by legal protocol and what is often actually necessary for victims on a personal level is too wide. The minimal training offered to coordinators for residential education (CREs) and residential advisers (RAs), for example, is inadequate, she said.
“They’re trained in what to do but not necessarily how to do it,” she said.
Greensite’s RPE presentation has traditionally been offered at freshmen orientation, but in the case of Merrill College, it used to be incorporated into freshman and transfer education via the core course curriculum.
“It’s hard to have discussions about rape and about alcohol, but when it’s put in the orientation program, it’s received well,” said Jim Carter, Cowell and Stevenson college administration officer (CAO).
Greensite said that Cowell and Stevenson have been the most consistent participants in the program from the start.
Lack of participation among other less consistent colleges, Greensite said, is generally connected to the administration of those individual colleges, although there is no direct correlation between the frequency of participation in colleges with predominately male faculty over women, she said.
Merrill Provost Lourdes Martinez-Echazabal was responsible for the recent decision to cut RPE from Merrill’s Core curriculum. She does not negate the relevance of the program, and instead said that the decision was a result of prioritizing the time of students and faculty. She said that several organizations on campus request that time be set aside for informational meetings for freshmen every year, and it is simply impossible for them all to be accommodated.
“Even though [Greensite’s] presentation was useful, there are different times and places for it,” Martinez-Echazabal said. “Why is rape awareness more important than race awareness or disability awareness?”
Greensite, however, thinks RPE needs to be a foremost administrative priority, and that other beginning-of-the-year activities should take the back burner.
“What is more important, an evening at the Boardwalk or rape prevention education?” she said, referring to the carnival outing present in many past years’ orientations.
Carter recognizes that the beginning of the year can be very overwhelming for incoming students, so he encourages year-round education, especially on topics as heavy as RPE.
“We realize that things happen during first quarter and sometimes people don’t want to hear that during orientation,” he said. “So we encourage the colleges to continue pursuing programs during the year.”
The United States Department of Justice reports that rape is the most common of all violent crimes committed on college campuses. And according to both Greensite and Walker at the Title IX office, the majority of sexual assault victims are afraid to report the crime, regardless of how rampant it is.
Thus, by making information about treatment and prosecution options readily available, the RPE center and Title IX office are ultimately aimed at creating a haven for students who are victims of these types of crimes, and letting them know that they have a campus-based support system to help them through the aftermath.
Often the aftermath of a rape includes prosecution — but the manner in which an assailant may be prosecuted depends on a victim’s willingness to file a formal complaint, Greensite said.
Walker said the last time a formal complaint actually went through the entirety of the campus judicial process was in 2007. The attacker was ultimately expelled from UCSC.
Overall, the nature of sexual assault and rape, and the organization of how these crimes are reported and dealt with, are such that the number of reports filed does not even come close to accurately reflecting the actual frequency of the crimes.
Walker explained that when a report is filed, the Title IX office may conduct an investigation only at the request of a victim, or if there is sufficient evidence that a sexual assault-related crime was committed. However, “sufficient evidence” can be difficult to impossible to compile.
Only one formal report of rape has been filed with the Title IX office since July of 2008, Walker said. The outcome of that investigation has yet to be resolved.
Nearly a decade ago, the California Department of Justice awarded UC Davis a grant to fund programs that educate students about sexual assault and violence.
In a move that appears to show support for RPE programs, UC Santa Cruz jumped on the bandwagon and with the help and support of Milliken, other peer educators and the RPE and Title IX offices, UCSC has applied for the same grant. The university is currently awaiting approval by the state.
Currently only Cowell and Stevenson, Crown and Colleges Nine and Ten include Greensite’s RPE presentation in their beginning-of-the-year curriculum.
However, Milliken said, there is equal participation in peer educators’ workshops within each college.
Ideally, the RPE and Title IX offices would like to see these workshops become mandatory. In that spirit, Greensite is “working hard to persuade all of the colleges that this is an important issue,” she said. “It’s imperative that we try to prevent rape from happening.”
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