Partners Against Violence, which supports survivors of sexual assault and violent crimes in the Inland Empire region, gave a presentation at College of the Desert on Oct. 27. Students connected with a representative from the organization and learned about the services that the organization provides.
Sexual assaults on college campuses are highest during what Partners Against Violence (formerly San Bernardino Sexual Assault Services), refer to as The Red Zone. Fifty percent of all college sexual assaults occur during this period, which covers the start of the fall semester through Thanksgiving. COD’s percentage is lower due to the lack of dorms on campus. Only about 20 percent of these assaults get reported leaving 80 percent unreported due to the stigma of a sexual assault allegation.
“Regardless of what you were wearing, regardless of what you were drinking, regardless of whether you were already seeing the person, know that assault is never your fault. If you don’t consent to it, it is considered sexual assault,” said Ashley Bautista, a community outreach specialist from the organization.
Professor of Kinesiology Wendy Ansley said, “Our program has developed a partnership with this important organization.” Partners Against Violence is working with many colleges and universities in the Inland Empire and East Riverside County to bring awareness to The Red Zone.
“We hope to create a safe environment for the students at College of the Desert and across all campuses within our region. We are spreading awareness in the hopes of trying to prevent assaults from happening and educating students on The Red Zone and to be advocates on your campus,” said Bautista.
“Topics include campus safety, tips for staying safe when going out, consent and Title IX,” said Gena Pliss, a community outreach specialist for the non-profit. Researchers have also found that freshmen, in particular, reported the highest rate of unwanted sexual contact. Due to COVID-19 keeping students off-campus last year, an uptick of reports is expected this year.
Freshmen and sophomores may be new to campuses this year. Without any college experience or sexual misconduct training, there is reason to believe that the number of students at risk may double. To better understand these facts and to see tips and resources, you may wish to contact Partners Against Violence on their social media platforms @partnersagainstviolence and their website www.partnersagainstviolence.org.
Students and their supporters are encouraged to participate in a pledge which the organization has created. The pledge reminds students to take a stand against sexual violence whenever it may occur. The pledge also asks students to honor and respect their fellow students, maintain healthy conversations, practice consent, and never be a bystander. Bautista encouraged students to always travel with a partner, implement a safe word to let that partner know you’re feeling uncomfortable, and learn to not be a bystander in situations that may lead to assault.
Pliss said, “Those who have taken the pledge received a red bracelet as a visual of their commitment to preventing violence.”
Ansley noted that just knowing this resource exists is a step in the right direction. Partners Against Violence staffs victim advocates will remain with an assault case and be a touchstone for the victim from the beginning to the end of the case. If a victim needs to be removed from a situation, Partners Against Violence can help with relocation and file a claim that can get funds to the victim to help cover expenses.
If a case does end up in court, a staff member will accompany the victim to advocate for them and help them through the legal process. “Court cases can last years,” said Bautista, “and we continue to support through the whole way.” The services that Partners Against Violence offers are always free and confidential.
Ansley told students in her women’s self-defense class who formed the audience for the presentation, “Many of you plan to transfer to a four-year college. Now you can understand the importance and the value of resources like this. Always know your value, know your worth, always know your truth and surround yourself with good friends.”
For more information contact Partners Against Violence at [email protected]