Sexual assault allegation prompts student action

Candlelight vigil held to support survivors

Jasmine Demers, Managing Editor

A recently reported sexual assault at CSUSM has prompted members of the campus community to take action against sexual violence and come together to support survivors.           

On Monday, May 9, members of the campus community, Feminists Unite and Sigma Chi gathered in the library plaza for a candlelight vigil to support survivors of sexual assault on campus.

The vigil was held in response to an alleged rape that was reported to the Dean of Students Office during the week of May 1 through May 7. In a Community Safety Alert that was sent out on Friday, May 6, Title IX Coordinator Dr. Bridget Blanshan wrote that a female student was allegedly drugged and raped by a male CSUSM student at his off campus residence.

We take all reports of sexual misconduct seriously and are currently conducting a Title IX investigation into the matter,” said Dr. Blanshan. “We sent a campus-wide email … in order to inform students of this incident and to encourage them to take preventative measures to protect themselves and their friends, particularly given that the upcoming weeks are certain to be filled with many year-end celebrations.”

Upon hearing of this report, CSUSM student and Feminists Unite leader, Karen GuzmXn said that she and other members of the group immediately came together to think of a plan of action.

“We wanted to come together in response to [the recent assault] and say ‘not on our campus’ and ‘we don’t tolerate that’” said GuzmXn. “More than anything, as Feminists Unite, so many of our members are survivors ourselves, and we wanted to be able to show a lot of love to other survivors as well.”

During the vigil, students formed a circle around candles, which spelled out the words “end rape.” Each person in attendance was able to introduce themselves and explain why they were there. Many people, including CSUSM’s Sexual Assault Advocate and Educator Christa Wencl and Student Equity and Compliance Manager Melissa Swarts said that they were there to stand in solidarity with survivors and help raise awareness for these important issues on campus.

“No one should have their free choice taken away from them,” student and Sigma Chi member Junior Americano said. “Everyone should be able to feel independent and free at all times, and not have to worry about someone watching them, or stalking them, or hurting them in any way.”

Also a member of Sigma Chi, Kariar Alnaiem, explained more about why the campus fraternity chooses to help end sexual violence at CSUSM.

“We are a growing campus and this issue is recurring, which is very unfortunate. We as men really need to be advocates for this so we can make long term change,” he said.

Attendees each received a paper star where they wrote the reasons why they stand against sexual violence. Each star was placed on a poster which read “You are not alone.”

GuzmXn, along with other Feminists Unite member, Mayra Olea, also said that they hope the university will continue to move in the right direction in terms of prioritizing survivors and protecting students from sexual assault.

Dr. Blashan encourages any student who is concerned or feels unsafe to contact University Police or the Dean of Student Office. Students can also receive confidential support through Student Health and Counseling Services.

The university asks that if anyone has any information in regards to this investigation that they contact the Dean of Students office or call the University’s SAFE hotline at 760-750-SAFE.