Victims' Rights Caucus

Articles

Monday, Mar. 19, 2012

UC Merced campus advocate helps violence victims

vpatton@mercedsunstar.com">vpatton@mercedsunstar.com

A generous stack of cardboard boxes filled with light gray T-shirts inhabits a corner of Patricia Bauer's office at UC Merced.

Printed on the front of each shirt in blue letters is the message: "I Will __________." On the back are the words "What Will You Do?"

Each T-shirt isn't complete until its wearer fills in the blank with a description of how he or she plans to help prevent rape and domestic violence in their community.

It's not uncommon to see Bauer handing those T-shirts out to students on campus, or giving a presentation on how to help someone who's been a victim of sexual assault.

"We know these things happen, we know that they're common, but it's our job to do something to change it, to step in if we see a situation where violence is happening or might happen," says Bauer.

Bauer's role at UC Merced goes far beyond handing out T-shirts to students. Case in point, when someone has experienced sexual assault or violence, Bauer is always available to offer compassionate hugs, a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on.

For two years Bauer, 28, has worked as a campus advocate and prevention specialist for UC Merced's Violence Prevention Program, a grant-funded position created as a partnership between the campus and Valley Crisis Center. University officials say Bauer's role at the campus is crucial, in terms of having someone available to provide resources and information to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking in an environment that's completely confidential.

But Bauer also takes a proactive approach, holding regular presentations and student seminars geared toward creating a college culture where students work together to prevent such incidents. Bauer, a lifelong Merced County resident, first became motivated to get involved as a victims' rights advocate while she was a student at California State University, Stanislaus, in 2007. She began by volunteering at an area domestic violence shelter, an experience she called very "eye-opening."

Bauer was particularly struck by the prevalence of sexual assault and domestic violence, and how often those crimes go unreported.

"Seeing that, and getting to know people in that situation, made it real for me," Bauer said. "I believe it's wrong and I believe that I can do something to create change. And part of that is just creating a safe space for someone to come in, to talk about what's going on -- a place where they are validated, they are believed and empowered."

Numbers tell the story

Numbers from the program lend credence to its importance and the value of Bauer's on-campus role.

Last year, 56 students received advocacy services from the program. Of that number, 19 students said they were sexually assaulted, 26 reported domestic/dating violence, and 11 were for stalking. Of those 56 students, 10 reported the crimes to UC Merced police, while 17 reported the crime to other law enforcement agencies.

In 2010, 23 students received advocacy services from the program. Of that number, seven students said they were sexually assaulted, 12 reported domestic/dating violence and four reported stalking. Of those 23 students, three reported the crimes to UC Merced police, while nine reported the crimes to other law enforcement agencies.

Of the 26 sexual assaults reported to the program in 2010-11, 21 of the victims were acquainted with their assailant. Although the vast majority who received services from the program are fem