A city-wide sexual assault awareness session will take place Saturday in Berkeley, prompted in part by the increase in reported rapes announced earlier this year, and a state audit underway to analyze UC Berkeley’s sexual assault policies.
Cal senior Ella Bastone said the idea for the event came from Councilman Kriss Worthington, who attended a Take Back the Night march Bastone organized last spring. Worthington told her he was interested in sponsoring an awareness or outreach session, and she put him in touch with local advocates from Bay Area Women Against Rape. Over the summer, Bastone interned for Worthington, and he asked her if she could spearhead the effort.
The Berkeley Sexual Assault Awareness and Education Day is set to include workshops on rape myths, rape culture, risk reduction, reporting and resources, and survivor support. A session on increasing personal safety and awareness, with audience participation, is also planned. Bastone said it is the first city-sanctioned event of its kind in recent memory.
“I think it’s really important for people from the community to come together and talk about sexual assault. It’s a community health issue. It’s a safety issue. There’s a history of relegating it as a women’s issue solely,” she said. “It’s a hard topic to talk about, but it’s really necessary, to make sure we have a city that all of us want: a safe place where we can all flourish.”
Bastone, a Berkeley resident, said that, though many people who get involved in advocacy or support work related to sexual violence are women, it’s a topic that “affects all people in some way.” Many of those who get involved are either survivors of sexual assault themselves, or have close ties to someone who is.
Bastone said one goal of Saturday’s event is to address “rape culture” and how “our society normalizes sexual assault.” She continued: “We have to unlearn a lot of things our culture has taught us.”
Local advocates and students will lead the workshops, which are scheduled to take place from 12:30 to 3 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, 2362 Bancroft Way. The event is free and open to all members of the public.
Bastone said teams of two to three people will lead each workshop. Many of the facilitators are people Bastone met through work with Cal’s Gender Equity Resource Center and Bay Area Women Against Rape. Impact Bay Area will lead the session on self defense.
“We hope to leave people with a few messages,” she said. “First, we believe that, by empowering survivors, by listening to their stories and supporting their individual healing journey and process, we are showing our commitment to ending sexual violence, and breaking the silence around it.… When we work together to support survivors this is what show perpetrators that sexual violence in our community is unacceptable.”
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