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HomeOpinionUCI’s RTK/CHAMPS Peer Educators Aren’t Afraid to Tackle Sexual Violence

UCI’s RTK/CHAMPS Peer Educators Aren’t Afraid to Tackle Sexual Violence

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The Peer Educators of Right to KNOW and Challenging All Men to Prevent Sexism (RTK/CHAMPS) are heroes on UCI’s campus, collaborating with on-campus organizations and students to raise awareness for, prevent and combat occurrences of sexual violence. Their eagerness and passion to help and serve others is an inspiration to us all and who we should be looking up to as a positive example at UCI.

Through a panoply of outreach projects and educative workshops, members of RTK/CHAMPS seek to provide services and resources to students who need such aid. For example, the organization has been able to connect with thousands of people on campus in the incredibly informative presentations they share with other UCI residents and organizations on campus.

Current Peer Educator Gabriela Marquez has been in the program for two years. She enthusiastically stated that she is “happy and honored” in being granted the privilege to educate and support people impacted by sexual violence. Marquez also emphasized the organization’s richness in its efforts to support survivors of sexual violence, as well as praised the “very welcoming community” that UCI CARE provides.

Under normal circumstances, RTK/CHAMPS is administered in a unique, in-person environment, where Peer Educators are able to speak with and support survivors of sexual violence. However, the disruption of COVID-19 has allowed the office to turn to virtual ways to provide for UCI students. Even with this unprecedented setback, the Peer Educators have found providing care to be just as easily and readily accessible as compared to when meetings were allowed in person.

Although there are fewer opportunities for peer educators like Marquez to “speak directly with other students,” RTK/CHAMPS has worked to expand their voice and platform through virtual means, like networking with peers on social media and Zoom conferences. Especially with the shift to digital and virtual means to convey the same message, they have found that social networks make it much more fluid in connecting with people online.

Their activities have connected students to accessible information and materials that allow students to protect and educate themselves and the people around them. For example, RTK administers virtual workshops that inform UCI students and staff about topics like the harms of toxic masculinity, the significance of trust and mutual respect in relationships, and instigating boundaries and consent.

RTK/CHAMPS also emphasizes that action and intervention can be taken in any form, anywhere and at any time. This thought-provoking mindset encourages Peer Educators to be constantly on the lookout for potential red flags in their communities. With the rise of instances to reported cases in negative proportions since the pandemic hit, it is significant that they are consistently on their toes.

Additionally, being a part of the RTK/CHAMPS program enables members a safe space to learn about and discuss topics like rape culture, the effects of trauma on the brain, crisis intervention and sex positivity. Peer Educators are also given the opportunity to participate in panels featuring survivors and professionals who speak to the importance of accentuating efforts to raise awareness for sexual violence. The consistent rollout of events and activities emphasizes that there is much work to be done to combat an issue that negatively impacts individuals internationally; it is triumphant to know that there exists a group on campus that is so passionate about combating it.

Within the program itself, RTK/CHAMPS has accentuated the significance of team building and communication to complete tasks effectively and efficiently. Not only are Peer Educators committing long hours to amplify their voice and create rippling change, but they are also constantly representing the program and university in their own lives. 

On top of this, Peer Educators aid in promoting campus safety and wellness campaigns through the Green Dot Bystander Training and Intervention, as well as remembering the significance of taking action in the Dating and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Clothesline Project and the Stalking Education Awareness Campaign. This organization is incredibly successful in calling attention to such dire issues. It is time that we, as a collective society, do more to make a similar positive impact on the world we all live in.

Peer Educators like Danny Bravo-Trujillo have expressed how RTK/CHAMPS has helped in his professional endeavors; it empowers him to communicate with adolescents and adults who are suffering from anxiety, depression and stress. Bravo-Trujillo expresses with pride how he has been able to apply the knowledge and experiences acquired from being in the program to his two self-created non-profit organizations in his hometown. While juggling his professional affairs with academics and passions, he expresses how his involvement in RTK/CHAMPS has armed him with techniques, addressing anything from “self-care” tips to how to respond in “toxic and dangerous relationships,” that he is able to provide and distribute to his community. 

In the midst of such a strange and uncertain time, these Peer Educators readily give confidence and security to those who need it; this program encourages us to think about how we view and react to various occurrences in our community. RTK/CHAMPS looks at these issues in the eye and doesn’t back down. It’s an incredible feat that we all need to learn from.

The RTK/CHAMPS team is also currently collaborating with organizations across campus to showcase Take Back the Night, their annual candlelight vigil event that raises awareness on the denigrating effects of sexual violence in our community and broader society; the event is incredibly successful in honoring sexual violence survivors and their stories.

RTK/CHAMPS’ efforts delineate the significance of consistent, persistent contribution and teamwork to championing a cause. Active measures are being taken daily by the organization to ensure that UCI students and staff are safe and supported. Their selflessness highlights how we, as a society, must also work together to combat challenges that affect individuals of minority and marginalized groups to achieve equity, equality and justice for all.

In order to envision a future that provides a safe space for individuals of all identities to feel secure, it is first significant to establish it as reality, encourage the spread of awareness and consistently work to include all members of both our local and broad communities. If we can all learn to pitch in like how RTK/CHAMPS is already dedicating their time and effort in promoting such environments at UCI, it is only a matter of time before creating a better and safer world becomes a true, viable reality.

Andy Ketsiri is an Opinion Intern for the winter 2021 quarter. She can be reached at aketsiri@uci.edu.