April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so advocates in the community and at UC Merced have planned events to educate people and raise money for advocacy.
Many of the efforts are meant to push back against a “blame the victim” mentality that sexual assault survivors are often subjected to, said Meghan Kehoe, program director of Valley Crisis Center, an organization that advocates for victims of physical and sexual abuse.
“There’s no excuse for sexual violence,” she said. “Nobody deserves to be sexually assaulted, no matter what they’re wearing.”
Kehoe said sexual violence is a problem the entire community must address if it is to be curbed.
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One of the events to bring awareness is Denim Day on April 29, when people are asked to wear denim in support of victims of sexual violence. The denim is a reference to a court case that made international news.
In 1992, an 18-year-old Italian woman brought an accusation of rape against her 45-year-old driving instructor in the small town of Muro Lucano, 60 miles from Naples.
The woman said that during a driving lesson, he drove her to an isolated spot, forced her to get out and raped her. He contended that they had consensual sex in the car.
An Italian appeals court gave the driver a new trial, overturning another court’s ruling that sentenced the driver to nearly three years in prison. The appeals court’s decision suggested that a woman cannot be raped if she is wearing jeans because, the ruling contended, they are impossible to remove unless she helps.
Advocates have said educating people about sexual violence is important in Merced, a college town with a demographic that continues to skew younger.
Nearly 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 71 men, have reported being raped, according to numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The overwhelming majority of women reported the assaults occurred while they were of college age or younger.
UC Merced has events planned throughout the month to try to keep students aware. They kicked off Wednesday, the first day of a contest in which UC Merced advocates asked the “campus community” to design a logo for the Campus Advocacy, Resources and Education Office, according to Director Kari Mansager.
Formerly called the Violence Prevention Program, the office changed its name to Campus Advocacy, Resources and Education Office to match other UC campuses.
The contest is open to students, faculty and staff and runs through April 20. Organizers at the campus also plan an art hop, a walk and other activities. Students are also asked to participate in Denim Day.
A complete list of the campus events, which are aimed at students, is available on UC Merced’s website.
Later this month, the Valley Crisis Center plans a fundraiser to benefit its programs for victims. An auction, raffle and other fundraisers are planned April 24 at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center.
For more on the center, go to www.valleycrisiscenter.org. The center also offers a 24-hour crisis hotline for victims of physical or sexual abuse at (209) 722-4357.
Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AT A GLANCE
WHAT: Valley Crisis Center fundraiser
WHEN: 5 to 8 p.m. April 24
WHERE: Merced Multicultural Arts Center, 645 W. Main St.
COST: $15 general admission; free for younger than 12