Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.
Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.

UC Santa Cruz recognized Rape Awareness Month this week with campus events designed to highlight the importance of rape awareness.

However, UCSC Rape Education Center director Gillian Greensite says the university has not been taking rape prevention education as seriously as she had hoped. After only one year, administrators recently chose to cut the Sex and Consent Assembly, a new program the center designed in order to educate this year’s incoming freshman class about rape prevention.

“I’m very sad to say that the Student Affairs administration has decided to replace it with an online module next year,” Greensite said.

The decision to eliminate the program followed decreased interest in hosting the program from the 10 colleges.

The program will now be included in the online AlcoholEDU course, which students are required to complete when they begin their freshman year. The online program complies with Assembly Bill 1088, which mandates that every public postsecondary institution in California offer rape prevention education to its students. However, Greensite expressed concern that students will not benefit as much from the online program as they did from attending the seminar in person.

“I think [cutting the seminar] takes us from being on the cutting edge of the forefront of universities nationwide to pretty much one of the back few,” Greensite said.

Greensite stated that eliminating the course will have a negative impact on the awareness of sexual abuse issues among the student population, and will also diminish the number of students reached.

“It will not be an education of the quality that we have been able to give through rape prevention education in the past,” she said.

Greensite worries that cutting the program will have an impact on what she says is an already low number of students who are aware of and utilize the on-campus resources for victims of sexual assault. About five students report rape each year at UCSC, but, according to national studies, a school of UCSC’s size could have up to 300 incidences a year. Though the number may not be that high, Greensite said there still may be a discrepancy between actual and reported numbers.

“I think we are better than the average university but I know that the [real] numbers are nowhere [near] as low as five,” she said.

Nina Milliken, a fourth-year Latin American and Latino studies major, has been part of a group of male and female peer educators for the Rape Prevention Education Center for three years now, and agreed that eliminating the seminar would leave some students without the education and resources they need.

“I am a rape survivor and one of the most difficult problems that I have found since being raped is that I know a very large number of women have been raped like me, but that there’s no way to access those women on our campus,” Milliken said.

To address the students who are staying silent on the issue, Milliken co-founded the Rape Survivor Network. The network comprises a group of survivors that meets weekly to discuss any issues they have faced after a forced sexual experience.

“I think the university does a pretty good job about trying to hide this issue, which is not good in my mind,” Milliken said. “It needs to be an easily accessed resource.”

The Rape Survivor Network is not the only thing that is being profiled this month to spread awareness. Events put on by the center this week wrap up Rape Awareness Month outreach.

Peer educators have been helping to table in the Quarry Plaza and organize events like Denim Day, the largest event of the month. It is scheduled to take place April 29 as part of a worldwide campaign to challenge rape myths.

Tiffany Wetherell, a second-year feminist studies and economics double major, has been a peer educator for two years now. She said she is also disappointed with the cancellation of the freshman rape education seminar after only one year.

Wetherell said she became a peer educator because of her interest in feminist activist groups. The main reason she continues the work is because statistics show that one in four women will be raped or experience attempted rape at one point in their lives.

A study done at 32 colleges in the United States reported that one in 12 men out of 3000 surveyed had committed rape or attempted rape as the term is legally defined.

“The scariest part, though, is that 84 percent of those men insisted that what they had done could not be called rape,” Wetherell said. “If that is not a terrifyingly clear call for awareness then I don’t know what else is.”