Stop the Conflation of Physical Abuse Charges with Sexual Assault and Rape
We the undersigned, are ashamed that our university has charged a student activist with physical abuse with no evidence to support these charges. At the same time, the University of California, Irvine (UCI) is failing to admit responsibility of the physical harassment that this student activist experienced by UCI administrative staff. Even more shocking, the verbiage of the policy that he was accused of violating trivializes acts of rape and sexual assault which occur with frequency at our school. On November 8th 2012, a student activist was charged with violating Student Conduct Policy 102.08. This charge resulted from the student's participation in a peaceful march through the UCI bookstore to highlight the ongoing privatization of the California public university system. As protesters entered the bookstore, several students were assaulted by administration and staff. Shamefully, the UCI administration continues their silence about the incident, failing to admit responsibility of the physical harassment that student protestors experienced at the hands of staff and administration. Furthermore,in an attempt to white-wash their actions, the University charged a peaceful student protestor with physical assault. This underscores the true intent of the UCI administration: to silence students who oppose the privatization of public education. According to the UC Irvine administration, students do not have the right to free speech and the right to peacefully assemble. A further disregard of the student body is the administration's use of the Student Conduct Policy 102.08 Physical Abuse charge towards the student activist that states: Physical Abuse - “Physical abuse including but not limited to, sexual assault, sex offenses, and other physical assault; threats of violence; or other conduct that threatens the health or safety of any person. (See Appendix 3).” (Appendix 3 is available at: http://dos.uci.edu/conduct/appendix_3.php and describes the UCI Sexual Assault Policy: "This UCI Sexual Assault Policy encompasses the applicable California state law on sexual assault, rape, sexual battery, and unlawful sexual intercourse.") By lumping together all sexual and physical abuse into one charge, the Student Conduct Policy 102.08 Physical Abuse trivializes and erases the experiences of sexual assault victims. It is problematic that the University is grouping all physical abuse, and in this case - resistance of the forcible, unjust attempt to remove student activists from the University bookstore - with all forms of sexual abuse, which is intended to dehumanize and destroy the mental and psychological stability of those sexually assaulted. This dilution of both the meanings of physical and sexual assault gravely undermines the seriousness of these offenses, in turn reinforcing violence against women and the LGBTQ community. Individuals who have experienced sexual harassment, abuse, and rape have to be taken seriously. We, the undersigned, are indignant that UCI treats sexual violence as a light matter and feel comfortable to charge a random student activist with a serious offense they did not commit. At the same time we are outraged that the university has ignored instances of assault by its own administrative staff. This charge is a political manuever by the University of California which has been historically used to punish politically active students. In addition to minimizing the struggle of survivors of sexual assault, by using the allegations against sexual assault, the University serves to appeal to the affects of the community in rendering legitimization of unsubstantial physical abuse charges against political activists. We refuse to allow charges of sexual assault to be used as political tools to serve the agenda of the University administration. The University of California Irvine Student Conduct policies are archaic and do more harm than they do justice. It is clear that these policies are used to punish students engaged in political activism by capitalizing on the experiences of sexual assault survivors. Lastly, the only way to effectively deal with sexual assault and rape culture is to offer safety and assure accountability for survivors rather than trivializing their experiences. It is now obvious that this can only happen through structural changes to the university and society at large. *This letter stands in solidarity with the women of India who are still fighting for justice for the rape and murder of a young woman in a Delhi bus by six men using an iron rod. It stands in solidarity with the women of Juarez who we have still not forgotten, with Cece McDonald, a student from Minneapolis who sits in jail convincted of second degree manslaughter for surviving a racist and transphobic physical assault, and with all the survivors of sexual assault in the U.S. and around the world.
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