Edited on 4/30/2011 at 4:00am.
Colorfully painted jeans hang in the sunny Porter quad for Denim Day. The friendly colors only add strength to the words of support emblazoned on the jeans: “Speak up Speak out.” “Silence does not equal consent.” “You are not alone”.
Behind a table laden with pamphlets, buttons and temporary tattoos sit three women, each a representative of a different branch of UCSC’s effort to provide comprehensive sexual assault and rape services on Denim Day — sexual health educator Aleen Raybin with Sexual Assault Facts & Education (SAFE), director of UC Santa Cruz Women’s Center Stephanie Milton and student volunteer Allison Strockis.
Denim Day, put on by SAFE, raises awareness during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in remembrance of the Italian trial that found a man innocent of committing rape because the victim was wearing tight jeans. The reasoning was that the victim must have helped him get them off, thus implying consent.
Programs such as SAFE, an umbrella program of Student Health Outreach & Promotion (SHOP), provide services and support for UCSC students regarding the subjects of rape and sexual assault.
Events like Denim Day are among many such services SAFE has to offer.
Raybin, a certified rape crisis counselor, domestic violence advocate, and UCSC alumna, heads SAFE. She said that rape and sexual assault affect everyone.
SAFE is open to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or ethnicity, and is 100 percent confidential.
“I’m not here to define somebody’s experience, I’m really here just as a support,” said Raybin. She emphasized that when survivors come to SAFE, “they will be believed and respected and provided with resources and options.”
Such resources include counseling and advocacy with reporting to the police or administration, medical attention and evidence gathering.
The Women’s Center, located in Cardiff House near the campus entrance, also provides rape crisis counseling, workshops and resources.
SAFE and the Women’s Center are part of a larger group, Coordinated Community Response (CCR), which provides coordinated services.
“The idea is, when we have a sexual assault on campus we have a coordinated community response that all of these people know how we deal with a sexual assault on campus,” said Meg Kobe, SHOP director and senior health educator.
CCR members include the University of California Police Department, the Santa Cruz Police Department, Walnut Avenue Women’s Center, Family Student Housing, Residential Life, Judicial Affairs, medical staff at the Health Center, SHOP and Counseling and Psychological Services.
“Even though we are in the beginning stages of figuring out relationships with different units on campus, I do think there is a sincere effort among all these units to try to address violence on campus,” Milton said.
Student volunteer Strockis pointed out that SAFE and the Women’s Center are not just resources for survivors, they are resources for the community at large.
“If you know that something happened to your friend and you’re struggling [with] how to talk to them about it, then these workshops and these people can help you be able to be comfortable and help you be able to support your friend,” Strockis said.
Student volunteers play a big role in SAFE and the Women’s Center through the creation and administration of workshops.
“The way that I see it, it’s such an incredible opportunity for students to have a voice in shaping what the campus has to offer,” Raybin said.
Student volunteers work with these groups to educate all students about the facts of rape and sexual assault.
“Alcohol is the No. 1 date rape drug,” Raybin said. “Perpetrators need to raise their awareness. Before they go out they need to realize that if they are only looking for people who are drunk, that they are intentionally victimizing someone who is unable to consent.”
Milton hoped the campus community would take away an important message from the groups’ awareness efforts throughout the month.
“The absence of ‘no’ does not automatically mean yes,” she said. “That’s something that everybody should know — if you’re an undergrad or grad, faculty or staff.”