Activism for Institutional ChangeApril 13, 2016 0 comments
Amid the sexual harassment scandals that have been rocking UC Berkeley, the community recently came together to hold a Survivor’s Symposium. I had the pleasure of attending for CALCASA. The symposium explored the institutional process for undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral students, and campus employees to report sexual violence on campus. At the heart, this was a grassroots event for survivors and allies that focused on the importance and centrality of survivor-led action to counteract the institutional bureaucracy in responding to and preventing sexual assault.
One major topic of discussion was the inherent conflict of interest the institution faces when it is both the employer of the alleged perpetrator and is accountable for student safety. A recurring question throughout the day was whether it is possible to treat all parties in these cases equally and without bias. Also, multiple campus groups and campus allies pointedly expanded their organizing to take into account the intersections—to challenge racial violence, violence based on sexual orientation, and
gender-based violence. As a group we talked about the trauma survivors endure and the array of strategies used to help survivors get on the path of healing. Additionally, the symposium offered self-care and “artivist” (art for activism and social justice) workshops, collective poetry & zine-making, yoga, and self-defense.
I felt honored to be in the presence of survivors and allies whose determination resembled the passion of early activists against sexual violence and institutional oppression. It is vital to keep survivors at the core of the work to help eradicate sexual violence. I look forward to seeing how UC Berkeley keeps survivors in the focus in the future.
Adrienne N. Spires
Training & Technical Assistance Coordinator
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