“ON A TYPICAL DAY, MORE THAN 20,000 PHONE CALLS ARE PLACED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINES NATIONWIDE.”
“1 IN 3 WOMEN AND 1 IN 4 MEN HAVE BEEN VICTIMS OF [SOME FORM OF] PHYSICAL VIOLENCE BY AN INTIMATE PARTNER WITHIN THEIR LIFETIME.” (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, so it’s the right time to discuss our commitment to ending gender-based violence, including relationship violence and sexual assault. In the past two years, President Barack Obama formed the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. “Not Alone, The First Report” was published in April, 2014. President Obama also announced the “It’s On Us” initiative with the goal of raising awareness to help end sexual assault on college campuses.
Community colleges, which are open and welcoming to all, create unique challenges in this area. But that doesn’t make it impossible, it just means we have to be thoughtful and committed. In fact, SRJC campuses and facilities are generally very safe, but we are not immune.
Dr. Chong after signing the It’s On Us pledge
The really good news, and I’m very proud of this, is that in the past year, the SRJC community has taken numerous steps to make sure none of our students, faculty, staff, or college visitors experience such a traumatic event in the future. All deserve to be in a safe environment.
Leadership around this issue comes from throughout the college. SRJC’s Police Department Chief Lorenzo Duenas has been working collaboratively with the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office, Verity, The Family Justice Center, and all Sonoma County Law Enforcement agencies in order to increase awareness and sexual assault prevention training for our community. He’s also been reaching out to various student clubs and committees in order to build stronger relationships and enhance trust with the District Police Department.
Last year, Feminists United, a student club, created a powerful Take Back the Night event. They did an outstanding job educating all of us about what sexual assault meant to them, creating honest and powerful conversation. Their second Take Back the Night event, this year presented in conjunction with the Art Club, is on Tuesday, October 25.
I’m proud that our Kinesiology, Athletics & Dance (KAD) department, under Dean Matt Markovich and Coach Lenny Wagner, is leading the way among California community college athletes, launching the Bear Cub Athletics Sexual Assault and Prevention campaign last fall with trainings and workshops for student-athletes, coaches and staff. On October 15, we’ll host a Domestic Violence Prevention and Awareness-themed home football game, with involvement from community organizations (see resources below). I hope everyone will join us for this important event.
Both KAD and Student Health Services (SHS) have created SRJC-specific sexual assault prevention videos, widely distributed, based on the “It’s On Us” campaign. SHS has also hosted screenings of “The Hunting Ground” during Women’s History month last year, and SHS PEERS worked with theatre arts students to lead a workshop on building bystander intervention skills. The PEERS also led a relationship violence prevention workshop including the powerful film “Escalation” followed by discussion groups; working with campus partners, the SHS workshop reached 300 athletes in early October.
This year, we hired Stephanie Jarrett, Training & Compliance manager, to join our team to further the District’s efforts in complying with Title IX, including educating our students and employees. Title IX “prohibits sex (gender-based) discrimination and includes sexual harassment...” Sexual assault is an extreme form of sexual harassment, and we will respond promptly to eliminate the harassment, take steps to prevent its reoccurrence, and address its effects on our community. We will not tolerate any form of gender-based violence on our campuses or any of our facilities.
These are ways of demonstrating that SRJC has made a commitment to being proactive, and making it a priority to educate the college community about this important issue. We don’t want to promote fear. What we want to promote is the idea that our college community, committed to safety, can protect itself and we will do just that.
Ensuring our community’s safety is a top priority of mine and of our Board of Trustees. I have directed all of our employees to consider what part they can play and I ask each of you to read our Board policy 2.15 about this. See the videos and other excellent resources below. As President Obama says, “It’s on us,” and as a community, we will protect our students, employees and visitors.
Have a safe and productive semester,
Title IX Resources & Support
Student Health Services
SRJC District Police
Videos, Take Back the Night Info, October 15 Football Game Info
Family Justice Center, Sonoma County
YWCA Sonoma County
It’s On Us