Arts & Life

Rape culture and safety at CSULB

The RAINN Network, a non-profit organization working to combat sexual assault, cites that female student are 50% more likely than non-students to experience sexual violence and male college students are 78% more likely.

These numbers only account for those who actually report their aggressor.

While these statistics exist, the Long Beach State campus and the Office of Equity and Diversity work to provide students a multitude of resources on and off the campus that safeguard victims of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence.

“When students are experiencing a difficult situation like intimate partner violence, I think what’s important is to provide survivors with options. The more options that they have, I think the more willing they are to seek out help,” Jacqueline Urtez, Not Alone at the Beach Confidentiality University Advocate, said.

The Cares Office, which supports students through crisis mitigation and providing campus resources, works closely with the Office of Equity and Diversity to help students and faculty get the help they need. They provide counseling services and anonymous advocacy and bring issues to the University Police Department.

The Cares Office and the Office of Equity And Diversity follow the protocols issued by Title IX. Under Title IX, schools and other educational programs are federally barred from discriminating on the basis of sex.

The office also teams with UPD and is also a resource for victims to assist in inciting incidents, providing testing and issuing preventative measures, such as a restraining order.

There are also various online resources for students, such as the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, The Office on Women’s Health and YWCA, the Greater Los Angeles, Sexual Assault Crisis Services.

The Office of Equity and Diversity team is vested in promoting and providing services to students, staff and faculty, especially off the campus when domestic violence cases are on the rise.

“We have an increase in dating and domestic violence concerns,” CSULB Corporal Jafra Millner said. “I think, in general, anything that’s in the house if there’s a dysfunctional family that’s getting exacerbated. There’s a lot of exacerbation, challenging things right now.”

The pandemic forced many couples inside raising tensions between some, which made it difficult for some to leave their partner.

Domestic violence is violent behavior experienced by a current or past partner attempting to exert control by using fear and can be experienced in the form of physical, verbal—sexual or emotional abuse.

The World Health Organization cites that domestic violence cases that target women increase in any emergency situations, including the pandemic, and cases of domestic violence incidents and reports have increased by 50 to 60% in various locations in a 2020 press release.

Larisa Hamada, Assistant Vice President of Equity & Diversity, cites that victims experiencing domestic violence, on average, take up to seven times to leave their partner, and for some, it’s not knowing how to devise an exit plan.

The campus advocate offers students anonymous services that give students a resource to talk about their situation and is also among the only resources where students can share their experiences without fear of the incident being shared or reported, except for Counseling and Psychological Services counselors.

To safeguard students, staff and faculty in one’s personal life, the team recommends close friends and family not be judgmental and to remain patient to known victims.

“You have to allow that person to make their decisions on their own time and continue to empower them,” Hamada said. “That’s what I would recommend for friends and allies to remain nonjudgmental and to stay alongside that person.”

While fewer in-person services are offered, the university thinks they are better equipped, having more psychologists and counselors focused on promoting mental health and are staffed to assess students’ needs.

“Not all students and this can be applied to staff and faculty, may not be in a safe location to be able to access or to be able to meet with a counselor or therapist,” Urtez said.

While CSULB offers many resources, not every student feels safe while on campus.

A sophomore communications major who chose to remain anonymous said she has not felt safe living in the dorms the past two semesters.

Starting her CSULB career during the pandemic, she explained that she is fearful at night while on campus and is scared to walk back to her Parkside College dorm alone.

“At my old college, I would walk out of my dorm, and it’s like within five minutes I would see a security guard because we had security guards patrolling around our area,” she said. “And I just feel like it should be like that over here.”

Her heightened anxieties at night stem from her being sexually assaulted while attending a college in Hawaii. She feels the lack of security patrolling near her dorm makes her feel unsafe because she does not think help will arrive quickly.

UPD employs two Beach Patrol Officers who patrol the dorms and staff up to two or four officers who oversee the campus each shift and employs about 20 Community Service Officers, two of whom are designated to conduct night escorts.

While understaffing is an issue some days, Millner said someone is always ready and prepared to help.

“She just probably hasn’t seen us,” Millner said. “We are a phone call away if [students don’t] see us, If [they] need to go somewhere before stepping out of their dorms, tell [them] to bother us. It doesn’t bother us at all.”

The campus also offers the CSULB Night Escort Service operated by UPD Officials and Community Service Officers, that can be reached using phone or by using the blue phones on campus to get a ride.

However, the communications major said it takes her up to 15 minutes to get a ride, leaving her to wait in the dark.

Some students asked on a CSULB Facebook group said they enjoyed the service and felt it was worth waiting.

“For the most part, it didn’t take that long, maybe like three to five minutes, at most 10 to 15 minutes because sometimes they had to go to the beachside then and come back,” Michael Orwellian, a senior political science major said.

UPD recommends that students plan ahead when requesting rides from the ESO escort service because of the uncertainty of cases and prior commitments preventing both officers and community service officers from being there immediately.

Regardless of some student’s heightened anxieties, the university attempts to be a safe place for students on-and-off the campus.

“We’ve actually had more resources now around mental health,” Urtez said. “And I think the majority of our staff, clinical staff, and counselors are open to being flexible and really meeting students where they’re at.”

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