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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

CERC pushes to implement increased rights for survivors of sexual assault at UMass

Collegian File Photo
(Collegian File Photo)

For more than three years, the Coalition to End Rape Culture at the University of Massachusetts says it has provided a safe and supportive environment for survivors of sexual assault, while rallying for survivor’s rights.

The Registered Student Organization, first formed in December 2012 in response to a rape on campus in the Pierpont Residential Building, is now trying to ensure that UMass implements the group’s Survivor’s Bill of Rights, a document that would expand the rights held by survivors and alleged victims of sexual assault at UMass.

CERC President Priya Ghosh outlined the organization’s three objectives, saying, “Our first is to support all survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. Our second is to educate the campus community. Our third is to advocate for institutional change on a policy level.”

As part of the organization’s third objective, CERC developed the Survivor’s Bill of Rights.

“We wrote the Survivor’s Bill of Rights with umbrella organizations like Carry That Weight, Know Your IX and the United States Student Association,” Ghosh said of the bill’s creation. “There was an original framework and we wrote it specifically for UMass.”

The Survivor’s Bill of Rights continues to be on the forefront of CERC’s agenda, and next week CERC will further push for its implementation during the organization’s Week of Action, which will take place from April 11-15.

“This year, our two main goals are to hold a speaker’s panel or teach-in, which will be Friday April 15, and have a social media campaign,” said Ghosh, a junior public health and health sciences major. “We will also be having a white board campaign talking about the Survivor Bill of Rights and why we feel survivor’s rights are so necessary on this campus.”

CERC core team members recently met with Enku Gelaye, vice chancellor of student affairs, as well as UMass Title IX Coordinator Débora Ferreira in order to introduce the Survivor’s Bill of Rights. One of the goals CERC set was implementing a website that would have all the information regarding resources for survivors and showing policies that were in place at UMass.

The group was successful in this endeavor.

“In September, (the administration) came through and they created a Title IX website that they are constantly updating and that’s a really comprehensive resource,” Ghosh said.

Additionally, UMass updated the My Rights section of the Title IX website in late March to include points paraphrased from the Survivor’s Bill of Rights.

CERC’s fight for the Survivor’s Bill of Rights, however, isn’t over yet.

“We are really trying to get the Survivor’s Bill of Rights implemented in its entirety at least on the UMass Amherst campus, but hopefully on all five UMass campuses,” said CERC Vice President Olivia Murphy, a sophomore women’s and gender studies major.

Ghosh said she is looking forward to an organized speaker’s panel, which will be held during the Week of Action on April 15. Although the location is undetermined, Ghosh said it will either take place in the Cape Cod Lounge in the Student Union or in an academic building on campus.

“We are reaching out to a number of folks: professors, students, local leaders (and) statewide leaders to speak at the speaker’s panel,” she said.

The focus of the speaker’s panel will be on public policy, gender-based violence and what experiences speakers have had pushing policy forward.

CERC strategy coordinator Melissa Myers, a sophomore social thought and political economy and journalism double major, is working to plan the Week of Action and organize administration talks.

“We’ve been working with (the administration) a lot,” Myers said. “They are very willing to work with us and we’re all cooperating together, which is great.”

For students who are interested in getting involved, CERC presents several ways that allow both survivors and allies to join. Ghosh said the group meets each Monday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Campus Center basement with the room number being announced each week via email and social media.

The first half of meetings involves updating each other about their status and a discussion of a specific topic or media, while the second half deals with planning future events.

“We encourage people of all gender identities and sexualities, races, etc. (to come),” Murphy said. “You don’t have to be a survivor to join, but you do need to be an ally of survivors. Stop by, check out a meeting. I think it is a really affirming space and I really hope to see people there.”

In addition to weekly meetings and bi-annual open mics, CERC also holds survivor safe spaces.

“We have bi-weekly survivor hangout spaces which are coordinated through our survivor support coordinator Tiffany Ramirez,” Ghosh said. “She will email out a Doodle Poll on social media and people can anonymously write down what times work for them.

She added: “People color, make art, drink tea, talk about things related to their personal life or not and just (get to) be around other people who have similar experiences.”

Ben Keefe can be reached at [email protected].

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    SamApr 9, 2016 at 1:54 am

    CERC’s demands will never be fully implemented, because one of the demands is that survivors of the same perpetrator be allowed to testify in a conduct hearing. That is such a flagrant violation of due process that lawyers would line up to represent any student expelled as a result of such a hearing and sue the school- it’d be a sure win and an easy payout.

    The rest of it is great- support groups, easy access to knowledge of what your rights are, etc.- but that one demand cuts the rights of the accused rather than supporting victims.