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Sierra College rises up against gender violence

Faculty, students engage in call to arms with One Billion Rising campaign
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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SIERRA COLLEGE - ONE BILLION RISING

When: 11:45 a.m.-12:05 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14

Where: SierraCollege, Rocklin Campus J (CampusCenter, Café), 5000 Rocklin Road, Rocklin

NevadaCounty Campus N4 (BellTower), 250 Sierra College Drive, GrassValley

Cost: free

Students and staff at Sierra College will make a stand against gender violence on Thursday, repurposing an international awareness campaign for local support and solidarity.

Organized by the Women and Gender Studies department, with help from the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance student club, the One Billion Rising event starts at 11:45 a.m. with a gathering of volunteers and Taiko drummers at the quad. Some will be carrying signs, others selling t-shirts or distributing information, and all of them will be standing in alliance with the one in three women – more than one billion worldwide – who are statistically likely to be raped or assaulted in their lifetimes.

Women and Gender Studies department head Kathleen Taylor said she has already sold more than 1,200 T-shirts and expects as many as 2,000 people to attend the event on Thursday, with 100 percent participation by the athletic department and free admission to the public.

“The idea is everybody comes to the campus center in solidarity, they see the data. We’ll be handing out flyers with information, not just statistics and why it’s important, but also with support services. The idea is they can see where they can get support or help with crisis lines down at Placer Health, et cetera,” she said. “It’s the kickoff to what will be a much longer-term emphasis, looking at issues around gender-based violence.”

Taylor said the concept of One Billion Rising developed last spring out of “The Vagina Monologues” author Eve Ensler’s work on V-Day over the past 15 years, and sponsored events have since garnered support from politicians, celebrities and activist groups around the world.

“This is a trans-national movement, and over 200 countries are involved. Literally millions and millions of men and women across the world are participating,” she said. “V-Day was this notion that it would be a day to focus on violence against women as being an important issue, and (Ensler) decided that we needed to stop business as usual, because after 15 years of V-Day, certainly there’s more information about gender-related violence … but we needed to have a substantial shift in consciousness.”

Taylor cited grim statistics – one in four females will be sexually assaulted in their lives; nearly three in four family violence victims are female; four million women and girls are trafficked annually worldwide – and said Sierra College’s event will focus on the local ones.

“Even though we tend to think about the big numbers of abuse being someplace else … we know that the prevalence statistics show that one out of five college females will be assaulted,” she said. “The stats are horrific, and it’s right here in our yard.”

Taylor said the biggest study on gender violence at the community college level came from the pediatrics department of UC Davis in Sacramento 20 years ago. It showed one in four females will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, consistent with Department of Justice figures.

In a memo to college staff, President Willy Duncan said Sierra’s community is no exception to the global issue.

“This is everyone’s problem, and fighting to stop this epidemic of violence against women is everyone’s fight,” he said.

Hoping a one-time rally will have more impact than an annual tradition, Taylor expects Thursday’s event will be a one-off.

“It’s a one-time thing, and the reason why I think that’s really important … is that our plan is that this is the big kickoff, so to speak, for a long-term campaign,” she said. “In other words, rising up once a year and saying ‘This is important’ actually kind of lets you off the hook from doing anything, so this is our call to action.”

After the 20-minute rally, students will stage two productions of “The Vagina Monologues” at the Dietrich Theater, one for donations at 12:30 p.m. and another for $10 general admission at 7 p.m. with discounts for students, seniors, and students with ASSC (Associated Students of Sierra College) stickers.