City College and State Respond to Sexual Assault

By Audrey Garces/Staff writer

City College provides valuable resources to tackle the public health issue of sexual assault by lending support to survivors along with educating students about healthy relationships.

One in five women and one in 16 men are victims of sexual assault while in college, but more than 90 percent of victims do not report the assault according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

City College’s Police Department said there have been no recent reporting of sexual assault on campus, but that does not stop them from taking necessary prevention precautions.

“We certainly provide routine patrols around campus to ensure safety. In the past, we have had issues in the Wellness Center where assaults have occurred in the locker rooms, so we have an officer assigned to patrol the area,” Chief of Police André L. Barnes said, “We hope bystanders will step up and take a more active role in intervening personally or calling an authority figure.”

State’s Efforts

In late August, Gov. Jerry Brown approved SB 186, which permits California’s Community Colleges to suspend or expel students for committing sexual violence crimes off campus, even if the offense did not involve another student.

Six other proposals are being considered by the California Legislature that would increase consequences for sexual assault crimes, which includes requiring the schools to disclose more information regarding disciplinary action for student offenders, as well as adding a note on the assailants’ transcripts that the student is ineligible to re-enroll as
punishment for their offense.

Assemblyman Das Williams, author of several bills, believes all colleges should hold their students to the same standards and have consistent treatment of sexual assault cases.

Prevention Programs

City College faculty member Leslie Simon created Project SURVIVE 22 years ago with the goal of prevention education and the program now serves approximately 400 classrooms annually through presentations to the College and local high schools.

Expect Respect SF is a high school program created in 2006 that stemmed from Project SURVIVE and is now a mandatory part of the freshmen health curriculum for all San Francisco Unified School District high school students.

“We actually have people come up to us after the presentations and tell us, ‘I’m a survivor, I’ve never told anybody.’ They were so moved by what we had said, and they felt so safe in the environment we had created, they felt they should tell us right then,” Hanna Pastrano said, a Project SURVIVE peer educator for 3 years.

“Let’s look at poverty. Let’s look at what is going on in our country, and our world, that is causing people to disrespect women.”

City College offers two classes on the subject of sexual violence taught by Amber Straus, who works with Project SURVIVE. WOMN 55 Ending Sexual Violence Education teaches students to be peer educators, and after passing the class each student may go through an interview process and thorough training to work a paid position with Project SURVIVE.

Peer educators are also required to take WOMN 54 Politics of Sexual Assault. Both classes focus on awareness and education as the means for learning to support victims, as well as preventing future sexual assaults, in an attempt to address these issues before they actually occur.

Pastrano, who took WOMN 55 and WOMN 54 as her first two classes at City College, describes these courses as having a strong sense of community and openness; places that create a safe space for students who come from all different backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses and ethnicities.

Project SURVIVE also focuses on sexual violence as a public health problem, teaching people to look at a broader picture of society in order to better understand the root of this issue.

“Let’s look at poverty. Let’s look at what is going on in our country, and our world, that is causing people to disrespect women. It is very important to look at a larger picture of political systems, social conditioning and psychological factors so that we don’t just say, ‘These are bad guys out there.’ What responsibility does our whole culture have in creating people who are hurting other people?” Simon said.

Health Center Resources

City College’s website links students to resources to help address sexual misconduct, including the Student Health Center.

Student Health collaborates with Project SURVIVE to provide presentations and consultations with teachers, and publishes an online monthly magazine, Student Health 101, which is available to students and has a specific section regarding sexual assault.

“Part of what I’m trying to really encourage and support within our institution is for us – as administrators, professionals, and faculty – to have a very clear line of referring students for support. Through all these means we really hope students will feel more safe in telling someone,”

Director of Student Health Services Becky Perelli said. The College’s Health Services provide resources and support for survivors, along with respecting victims’ right to choose whether or not to report the incident.

Health providers at the College go through mandatory training to learn ideal ways to respond to victims, including non-judgment, willingness to listen and refraining from questions. “One of the first things survivors have told me that they appreciate is for others to be very nonjudgmental, and to say, ‘Wow, I am so glad you told me about this, I’m very sorry this happened to you and it is not your fault. Let’s do some research about this and find out who we can talk to some more, are you willing to do that?’ I think we need to encourage this person to make their own decisions about how they want to move forward with what they revealed,” Perelli said.

This month’s issue of Student Health 101 discusses how sexual assault often does not look how one might expect it to, leaving victims feeling confused or even somehow responsible.

“We may struggle with the notion of our classmate as a sexual predator or alcohol as a weapon. Acts of sexual violence and coercion can be camouflaged by the social scene and our own beliefs about sexual behavior,” reads Student Health 101.

Four out of five victims are not strangers to their assaulter according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. Student Health 101 also mentions a new study by The Washington Post which found that one in four women and seven percent of men reported at least one non-consensual sexual experience in college.

Contact a reporter

Send an email to: Audrey Garces

Comments are closed.