On May 5, UC Davis’ Women’s Health Initiative held its second annual Men’s March Against Sexual Assault on the Quad. The event was held in order to raise awareness on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. The march drew over 50 supporters.
According to Sarah Yang, president of the Women’s Health Initiative, the march was named “Men’s March” in order to encourage men, whom she says are typically left out of this conversation, to have the opportunity to speak out against sexual assault. Yang emphasized that, in order for the situation to improve, the structure and culture must be changed, not necessarily the men.
“We ultimately want males to get involved with this and if you look at the population of people who showed up today, we have a decent amount of males,” Yang said. “I think that’s a huge success because most of the time, males are excluded from the conversation and we don’t think that that’s an effective strategy to combat something that’s so prevalent and nationwide.”
Brielle Mansell, a second-year history major, agreed with Yang and supported the name for expanding the community included in the conversation about sexual assault.
“I love the idea that it’s a men’s march,” Mansell said. “I know that there was a lot of controversy over the name, but I think the name is really what is one of the best parts about this march because it stands out and it makes people question why we have this dialogue and who’s a part of it and who should be a part of it. Everyone should be included.”
In addition to changing the community’s culture concerning sexual assault, Mimi Wyatt, member and future president of the Women’s Health Initiative, said another goal of the march was to gain involvement from the University on the issue. She said the march sends a powerful message to the University after the recent list released by the U.S. Department of Education of colleges and universities being investigated on how they handle sexual assault.
“I think with the recent list of schools that are being investigated, this sends a great message to our institution to consider this a serious issue and be involved with students on this issue,” Wyatt said.
Prior to the march, Sen. Kevin de Leόn (D-Los Angeles) gave a speech addressing Senate Bill 967, the meaning of consent and the measures students can take to help with the prevention of sexual assault in terms of bystander intervention. Senate Bill 967, which de Leόn helped write, would require California colleges and universities to follow specific victim-centered policies and protocols when addressing sexual violence on campus.
“I think this bill is moving us in the right direction to start influencing policy in our California colleges to really be more proactive on the issue of sexual assault and reporting sexual assault,” Wyatt said.
Several student organizations attended the march in support of the cause, including Davis College Democrats, UC Davis Collegiate FFA, UC Davis Socialist Organization and Psi Chi Omega. Psi Chi Omega ultimately brought in the most marchers and was awarded the $200 prize.
“I feel as Psi Chi Omega, we pride ourselves on being gentlemen,” said Alan Fung, a third-year psychology major and member of Psi Chi Omega. “As a fraternity, we’re aware that fraternities in general have a negative reputation for this kind of thing and we want to voice our opinions that not all fraternities are that way. As men, it’s kind of our responsibility to raise awareness about this kind of issue.”
According to Wyatt, students should be involved with events such as the Men’s March Against Sexual Assault due to the high prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses.
“I think that it’s really important for students to be involved with this conversation because this is happening to all of us right now,” Wyatt said. “One in five women are sexually assaulted during college. And I think that it’s so prevalent and underreported on our campus and other college campuses in the United States that people need to be more aware of it and more active in prevention.”
Josh Herskovitz, a third-year food science major, agreed with Wyatt and attended the march in hopes of bringing more awareness to the campus.
“I think it’s really important to destigmatize the idea of sexual assault on campus,” Herskovitz said. “It’s really hard to be someone who is a victim of sexual assault and talk about it and we really think it’s an issue that should be brought to light and be brought to our campus.”
Samuel Rothmann, a third-year political science and religious studies double major, felt it was his duty to attend the march. He believes everyone should be against sexual assault.
“Why am I here for the Men’s March Against Sexual Assault? Because it’s obvious,” Rothmann said. “We should all be against sexual assault, domestic violence, rape. It’s wrong.”
JASON PHAM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos by Rosa Furneaux.