According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, every two and a half minutes some is sexually assaulted somewhere in America, one in six American women has been the victim of rape and 75 percent of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. This years “Take Back the Night: Ending Sexual Violence One Step at a Time,” highlighted these and many other concerns regarding sexual violence.
In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Wednesday, April 22 also marked national Denim Day USA. Organized by Peace Over Violence, wearing jeans as a fashion statement to refute the misconceptions regarding sexual violence was a reaction to a 1992 Italian Supreme Court decision to dismiss a rape case.
According to the court, “because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape, but consensual sex.”
Denim Day USA has become an annual protest since 1999.
Sponsored by UC Irvine Campus Assault Resources and Education (CARE) and UCI Gender Education Series, Take Back the Night was supported by 17 various community organizations, including UCI Panhellenic, V-Day at UCI, Girls Inc., UCI Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center and the UCI and Irvine police departments.
The 12th annual candlelight vigil and march to raise awareness focused on the theme stated in their “passport” informative flier as “all human beings have the right to be free from violence, and the right to be involved in respectful relationships and the right to reclaim those rights if they are violated.”
“Violence is not just perpetrated against women, 76 percent of the victims of male homicide are other men. This violence is impacting all of us,” said Robert Buelow, CARE’s violence prevention coordinator.
Speaking on the rigid gender binary that socio-cultural factors have contributed to, Buelow pointed out that men often feel unable to engage in meaningful conversations about their feelings while women internalize conflict feeling that it is inappropriate to assert themselves.
“Gender is a spectrum, and conflict like sexual assault arises when we have expectations that men are supposed to act one way and that women are supposed to act another,” Buelow said.
CARE Director, Dr. Mandy Mount, said that the event provides a different educational experience.
“The objective is to build a culture that is friendly to survivors,” Mount said.
She explained that the passport activity motivated attendees to visit the various interactive booths. Participants who collected five stickers were eligible for numerous prizes.
Mayra Jimenez, a second-year cognitive psychology major volunteering at the Latina/Latino Student Psychological Association table, explained that their video depicted Latino men voicing opinions on domestic violence. The video intended to highlight the disparity between Latino men and American men and the cultural factors that contributed to their mindsets.
Ayesha Jamil, a third-year women’s studies major from Saddleback College, who was required to attend for one of her classes enjoyed the event.
“You learn more seeing everything then you do sitting in a classroom,” Jamil said.
Community Services Programs sexual assault victim services supervisor, Dawn Foor, posed a series of questions.
A 14-year rape survivor, Foor stated that the CSP hotline effectively puts many student victims in touch with help. During the holidays when alcohol indulgence is widespread, calls become more frequent, though during family holidays, calls become minimal stated Foor.
“The prevailing social attitude is that women are not human, violence is normal and no means yes or at the very least maybe … and sexual assault is always the victim’s fault,” Foor said.
At another stop, students received a demonstration on how to protect themselves against offenders.
“The best thing you can do with your body is run,” said Dave Monderine from Get Safe USA.
“Two, four, six, eight no more date rape!” was one of many chants that participants shouted as they marched around campus. The event concluded with a speak-out during which survivors shared their experiences as well as their recoveries.
Ria Tirona, a volunteer and second-year psychology and social behavior major at UCI, was pleased with the turnout considering it was midterms week. Lauren Smith, a former CARE staff member, agreed that the event was a lot more popular than it was three years ago.
“They say that UCI is apathetic but you look at this and it gives you hope,” Smith said.
Foor summarized one helpful way to prevent violence.
“It is up to men to be role models opposing the degradation of females … and it is up to women to oppose companies that portray women as brainless lust objects. Violations of the body damage hopes and joy and spirit,” Foor said.