Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Review: Gender Buffet: Moving from Rape Culture to a Culture of Consent

By Rachel Birnam

As I sat down for the Gender Buffet at the Women’s Center on a sunny Friday afternoon, I was excited. Not only because it was my first Gender Buffet, but because the topic was something that I am deeply passionate about; a topic that I want to discuss and spread awareness on. In light of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I was ready to have a dialogue about the huge problem that is rape culture, and how we, as a community, can shift that to a culture of consent.

The Gender Buffet began with representatives from SARC/CARE inviting us to list off some of the typical “safety warnings” we have heard throughout our lives, and whom/where we heard them. My mind immediately went to the cardinal rule that my mother ingrained into my head as a child, “never leave your drink unattended.” She has been telling this to my sister and me for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl, it always seemed like something that I didn’t need to worry about yet; something that was far off into the future. But then, suddenly, I was eighteen years old, at my first college party, seeing my mother’s words flash through my mind like a neon warning sign every time I put down my drink. Still to this day, her words have remained in the back of my mind to be called upon when needed.

In addition to my contribution, the list grew with a variety of warnings that we hear far too often today: “Don’t wear a short skirt,” “Don’t walk alone at night,” “Always have pepper spray on you.” All of which were heard, for the most part, from parents, schools, the media, and churches.

We then moved on to discussing the four points that make up rape culture:

  1. Patriarchy
  2. Violent Masculinity
  3. Sexualizing Violence
  4. Victim Blaming

These four issues have become so engrained into our society today, so normalized, that the term “rape culture” is synonymous with “culture.”

It is not uncommon to walk out of a final exam and overhear students claim that the test “raped them.”

It is far too often that victims of sexual assault are slut shamed for the acts of violence committed against them.

It is on a regular basis that rape is considered the punchline to a joke.

So, what can we do to counter these issues? How do we move into a culture of consent?

In the next phase of the Gender Buffet, we were asked to write down anything that we had been taught about consent, and again, whom/where we heard it from. This list, as expected, was much shorter.

But why is that?

Why aren’t we taught to stay away from certain behaviors and environments instead of being taught the guidelines of consent?

Thus begins our shift into a culture of consent. I left the Gender Buffet making a promise to the group, and to myself, that I will continue this dialogue. I will bring what I’ve learned at this event and educate my little sister, start a dialogue with my older brother, empower and inspire the women around me.

I encourage anyone who may be reading this to do the same. To encourage your family, friends, and community to start a dialogue on rape culture, and strive to move that to a culture of consent.

PSA: SARC to CARE Transition

By Rachel Birnam

“PSA: SARC to CARE Transition

By Rachel Birnam

As of January 2015, UC San Diego’s Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention Resource Center (SARC) has expanded its resources and services, changing its name to Campus Advocacy, Resources, and Education at the Sexual Assault Resource Center (CARE at SARC) due to the call to action by the UC President, Janet Napolitano to have a system-wide consistent model for the prevention and response to sexual assault and violence.

What does the change entail?

CARE at SARC, will continue to offer counseling and crisis intervention services to students, campus wide, free of charge. However, the transition has opened up these services to staff and faculty.

What kind of services does CARE at SARC provide for students, staff, and faculty?

CARE at SARC is dedicated to providing confidential services to those affected by sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking. These resources include individual counseling, crisis intervention, support groups, assistance with police, administrative, and non-investigative reporting options, accompaniment to police interviews, medical evidentiary exams, and court dates, and other forms of on campus advocacy. CARE at SARC is confidential and free.

In addition to these services, CARE at SARC is committed to educating the UC San Diego community on sexual/relationship violence. Some of their educational programs include: How to help a friend who is a victim of violence, Cute or Creepy: What’s a healthy relationship?, Every Little BIT Counts – Bystander Intervention Techniques for students, faculty, and staff, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April).

For more information on programs, staff, and resources, check out the website:, or stop by the center at Student Services Center, 5th floor, Room 555.

“UC San Diego is dedicated to creating a safe and respectful community through awareness, education and prevention of sexual assault and violence.” – Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla”


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