Women were the theme of the day and the focus of the eighth annual Women’s Forum hosted by the Cadena Cultural Center on Thursday, March 8.
“It’s great that this year’s women forum has enlisted leaders on campus to talk to students instead of looking [off campus],” said Michelle Garcia, the director of educational partnerships and the Outreach Center.
Several female faculty members led small groups and engaged in meaningful conversations where students shared stories of sexual harassment and violence as well as voiced their support for all who attended.
Some students happened to walk by the signs posted by the food court and walked in, like sociology student Andrea Riley.
“Of course [feminism] is a radical movement because if you don’t take care of a car and then you have to fix it all at once, it’s going to be a heap of problems,” said Riley.
President Greg Schultz also made an appearance to voice his support.
“This day is meant to celebrate women and their achievements but also is an opportunity to see where we can improve,” said Cecilia Arriaza, the director of the Cadena Cultural Center.
The theme of the forum was “Time has been up! Continuing the movement to end gender-based violence,” and the keynote speaker was ethnic studies professor Dr. Amber Rose Gonzalez.
Her presentation gave definitions to what violence is, the types of gender-based violence, sexual violence on campus and what ending violence could look like.
Gonzalez explained the forms of gender-based violence which include female infanticide, sexual violence at school and in the workplace, sex trafficking and forced prostitution, economically coerced sex and labor exploitation.
Women and LGBTQ students experience sexual violence at disproportionately high rates.
“This can include harassment, unwanted exposing or touching of the body and rape,” said Gonzalez.
Sexual harassment includes stalking, voyeurism, exhibitionism, obscene comments and phone calls.
“This all contributes to an intimidating and hostile environment,” said Gonzales. “What constitutes harassment is based on the perspective of the harassed, not the harasser,” added Gonzalez.
Sexual violence boils down to three main points according to Gonzales’ presentation: pervasiveness, underreported incidents and repeat offenders.
Seven percent of men, twenty percent of women and twenty-four percent of transgender and gender non-conforming students are sexually assaulted during their college career.
Eighty-five percent of college survivors know their assailant, but less than ten percent of incidents are reported to administration, police or other authority. Ninety percent are repeat offenders.
“[This has] perpetuated the #MeToo movement because these are not isolated incidents and the [mass has now realized that] validating these stories can help move towards putting a stop to violent crimes,” said Gonzalez.
Title IX is one form of protection that explains students’ rights on campus, but serves as a bare minimum, even if student’s are acquainted with the law, and Gonzalez questioned if it was enough.
Gonzales mentioned some activist groups that historically made an impact on the feminist movement as well as some local active groups.
The Combahee River Collective was a Boston organization that combatted all types of violence with members such as Audre Lorde and Barbara Smith.
Locally, Affirm is a group that actively fights to end violence against women among others and there are chapters in Orange county as well as Los Angeles.
Finally, Gonzales gave some possible solutions and tips on what students can do to bring an end to sexual violence.
“Education, empowerment, non-violent communication, stalking prevention, bystander intervention and knowing your rights can raise awareness,” said Gonzalez. “Write an op-ed, hold a press conference, join or staff an organization, organize an art exhibit and use social media.”