CARE plants seeds of empowerment through advocacy and education

April 28, 2020

By Michael Sim  

A handwritten note from Survivor Speak Out during
Take Back the Night, an annual collaborative event
between CARE and the Women’s Center: “Dear survivor,
like wildflowers; you must allow yourself to grow in
all the places people thought you never would.”
[Photo provided by Kelsey Hoie Ferrell]

Since 2001, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) has coordinated Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) every April to raise awareness about sexual harassment, assault, and abuse, and to educate communities on how to prevent it¹. With UC Santa Cruz students studying remotely this spring in response to COVID-19, the Campus Advocacy Resources and Education (CARE) office has adapted their services to continue providing the type of work the SAAM highlights online. 

Taking CARE of our students

“For me and the work that we do at CARE, every month is SAAM,” says Kelsey Hoie Ferrell, the CARE Director. CARE’s programming, which is centered around providing support, advocacy, resources and violence prevention education, has been around on the UC Santa Cruz campus for decades. Starting as a UC Santa Cruz Rape Prevention Education Program in 1979² , then later as a sexual health educator role within Student Health Outreach & Promotion (SHOP) in 2010³, CARE opened in 2015 in response to a recommendation from the UC Office of the President for every UC campus to have a separate office for this kind of work.

Anna Mulrooney, a second year neuroscience major, carries out CARE’s mission as a prevention education intern. “There has been a stigma for so long about survivors and their experiences. We see a lot of victim blaming and rape culture being perpetuated through the media. (I want to) shift the narrative. It’s rewarding knowing that when I do workshops for a really engaged group...they’re really retaining the information and will go into their community to spread awareness and prevent violence.” 

Consent 101 and bystander intervention are two of the most common workshops Mulrooney holds for groups such as Greek life and clubs. These presentations and more on how to support survivors and prevent violence in our communities are still being offered online this quarter.

Working alongside Mulrooney is Allison Dean, a second year film and digital media and applied linguistics major. As a community support intern, Dean focuses on how CARE can modify their services and reach out to specific communities that face higher levels of interpersonal violence and do not have as much access to support. 

This year Dean and the community support team held drop-in hours at the UCSC Ethnic Resource Centers (ERC) and the Lionel Cantú Queer Center. “These (drop-in hours are) so we’re available to them. I know survivors, family and friends, and I want to take the privileges I have as a person to uplift others.”

For spring quarter, Dean will be presenting online workshops to various UC Santa Cruz faculty and directors on how to be trauma-informed in their respective fields. 

Continuing to show up for the community

A #RootedInResilience graphic captioned with 
resources for staying connected including mobile
games and video chatting applications.

Ferrell notes, “The CARE interns have been phenomenal adapting our activities to an online environment on top of the struggles of being a student.”

 In regards to COVID-19, CARE is remaining open remotely with advocacy appointments being held through Zoom or phone call. In collaboration with the Women’s Center, Mulrooney has also been growing the #RootedInResilience campaign on Instagram and Facebook by posting content relevant to SAAM such as staying connected with loved ones and maintaining mental health during the quarantine.

In addition to being a part of the new online support groups, Dean has been working on planning for Peace Over Violence's national Denim Day on Wednesday, April 29th. “Since most of us are at home working remotely, our clothes have changed drastically,” says Ferrell. CARE is looking for folks to take pictures of themselves wearing denim to share on social media including tagging @ucsantacruz_care.

Denim Day 2020 flier. Tag @ucsantacruz_care and
@ucsc.women on Instagram for a reshare!

Denim Day started in 1999 as a response to a court case out of Italy where a sexual assault case had been overturned to release the perpetrator. The court determined that the girl’s jeans were so tight that she had to have assisted him in removing them, thus implying consent. 

Today, people around the world wear jeans on a designated Wednesday during SAAM in solidarity, “with survivors who never ask for this kind of violence no matter what they’re doing or wearing,” says Ferrell. 

“We want to flood social media with why that rhetoric (related to blaming victims over the clothes they wear) is not ok. We hope that lots of folks will put their jeans back on.”

Denim Day along with #RootedInResilience is only part of the month-long celebration.

This year CARE and the Women’s Center have found a way to, “take the heart,” of Take Back the Night, an annual event that began in 1983 on our campus, and, “deliver it in a different mechanism.” A team has been collecting digital writing and art submissions based on weekly prompts to share in a Digital Survivor Speak Out. 

The final digital media format for this will be determined by the type of content submitted and a printed version of the collection is planned for production when quarantine ends. The annual healing day workshop has also been reimagined as a video series on self-care through plants and gardening.

“My goal for this month is to empower survivors in their own lives, (to empower) the community to say that violence does not align with our values and that we deserve better for our community, one that is safe and free from violence,” says Ferrell. Dean adds, “(SAAM) is an opportunity for community. You don’t really get any other time because it’s such an intimate and emotional time for power.” 

Meeting you where you’re at

Ferrell and the CARE team have aimed to tune into how people may experience harm during these times of remote living. “These (changes) can upend coping strategies that had been previously working. The disruptions in our daily lives can really compound trauma and how it’s affecting us,” notes Ferrell.

The team has created a variety of entry points for those who are unsure if CARE is the resource for them. Students can connect with a CARE advocate by scheduling an appointment or contacting the office through phone or email. Students interested in learning more and getting involved are welcome to attend CARE ambassador training or become a volunteer! 

Mulrooney and Dean will continue their contributions next year with CARE as part of the Chancellor's Undergraduate Internship Program (CUIP) as CUIP prevention education and CUIP community support respectively.

Follow CARE on Instagram and Facebook for more updates on SAAM programming and general information! 

¹ National Sexual Violence Resource Center, “Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2020 Campaign Guide”
² Eileen L. Zurbriggen, “Local Resources,” Psychology of Trauma Psyc140T class page, March 31, 2013
³ Elizabeth Limbach, “Rearranging Rape,” Good Times Santa Cruz, July 27, 2010
⁴ Guy Lasnier, “CARE office provides confidential advocacy in cases of sexual violence,” University News & Events - UC Santa Cruz
⁵, “Why Denim? - Denim Day”

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