Dealing with Sexualized Violence at HSU

By Joanna Quintanilla
Flapjack Chronicle

Cat-calling, unwanted touching, forced sexual relations — sexual abuse can be a traumatizing and demeaning event for any person that is forced to endure it. But despite the efforts against this type of behavior, it still occurs in our everyday world. Humboldt State University is no exclusion to that.

The main approach seen on the campus of Humboldt State concerning sexual abuse are support groups for victims/survivors. There is the UPD (University Police Department), CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services), and a Sexual Assault Prevention Committee that works “toward eliminating rape and all forms of sexualized violence.” For those who actively work to combat sexual abuse, the term sexualized violence is often used. Jessica Whatcott, a professor here at HSU in the Critical Race, Gender & Sexuality Studies department,  prefers the term “sexualized violence” rather than sexual abuse.

“For me sexualized violence is a broader umbrella term that encompasses those legal terms but also includes any experience where someone is experiencing a violation of their sexual integrity any violation of their body in a sexual manner,” said Whatcott. “That includes things that might not be of legal definition.”

Events like Take Back the Night that works “to end sexualized and intimate partner violence” and brings awareness in an interactive level to the campus community, organizers say. The Women’s Resource Center helps plan and coordinate events and workshops like Take Back the Night.

Directly on campus, instances of sexual abuse are more likely to happen in the dormitories be it by miscommunication or sheer force. The Community Advocates receive some training, but are not professionals in the matter. Alex Rae Cooper, a CA in Sunset Hall, explains her role in the matter.

“We’re trained to be sensitive towards the subject since it can be a traumatizing event,” said Cooper. “We have a list of resources that people can talk to since we aren’t that qualified. By law we have to report it, usually to the Residence Life Coordinator and give them resources: they can call the North Coast Rape Crisis Team (707) 443-2737) and there is the psychological and counseling center on campus.”

Students on campus generally seem to have the knowledge of the resources available to them on campus in case of sexual abuse incidents. Ann Valdes, an HSU freshman, knows there are resources available to her on campus.

“I feel very safe on campus and know that I can go to the health center and UPD if something were to happen,” Valdes says.

As for the sometimes inevitable case of victim-blaming it is a habit that as a society must be broken. Kyrie Hood, a film major, commented on victim-blaming in the media.

“I feel like we have the tendency to blame the victim,” said Hood. “I definitely think that it lowers the probability that the victim would report a case of sexual assault.”

Sexualized violence comes and goes from the public eye. In the case of our campus community it is a constant effort to provide support for victim/survivors as well as dismantling that which causes sexualized violence to occur.

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