Sofie Karasek speaks out against sexual assault

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Sofie Karasek gives a talk during Springfest on April 18 in the Hess Rec Center titled “Breaking the Silence.” The presentation discusses sexual assault in colleges across the nation and how schools can work to prevent the current high rates. Amelia Huff/ Sun Star Photo credit: Amelia Huff

Sofie Karasek, a former UC Berkeley student and survivor of sexual assault, talked about her dissatisfaction with her university’s response after she was assaulted in her guest lecture “Breaking the Silence” during this year’s Springfest.

Karasek is the Director of Education and Co-founder of the activist group, “End Rape on Campus” and her organization works to end campus sexual violence through direct support for survivors and their communities; prevention through education; and policy reform at the campus, local, state and federal levels.

In the aftermath of her assault, Karasek said she came to realize her situation was unfortunately not an isolated incident but rather a systemic problem in universities across the United States.

“I tell you my story because it is something that is a microcosm of a much larger problem,” Karasek said “[The] experience of reaching out to other survivors through social media and hearing their stories and realizing, wait a second, you have a story that is happening in one part of the country that completely mirrors what’s happening 3,000 miles away. This is a national problem.”

Karasek has spearheaded campaigns against Berkeley administrators to hold them and other universities accountable for inappropriate responses to sexual assault as a violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act.

Title XI, which protects students against discrimination on the basis of race, could also be violated if the school is not providing ways for students to report sexual assault which they feel safe using. As some students may not feel safe going directly to the police, it is up to schools to provide alternative means to get help.

She also highlighted the importance of other titles in the protection of sexual assault survivors. Title II for example protects students from discrimination on the basis of ability. It is not uncommon for sexual assault survivors to develop disabilities such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression, and under Title II it is the responsibility of the university to accommodate for this.

By increasing awareness of student rights under the Education Amendments Act, Karasek seeks to ultimately increase safety for sexual assault survivors.

“This is about equal access to education,” said Karasek “Are survivors able to get the accommodations that they need?”

In order to provide equal access, Karasek says universities need to not simply comply with the Educations Amendments Act. To explain this she used the metaphor of a house, with the lowest levels being non-compliance and the highest level representing a full commitment to helping both helping survivors and preventing sexual assault.

“So you have lots of schools that prior to 2011 were in non-compliance. That’s like in the basement,” Karasek said. “Now you have more schools that are like chilling in the living room, sitting in the compliance section, but you don’t necessarily have a commitment to addressing this issue that needs to be present in order for this problem to truly be addressed.”

Students who have any questions, or need to report a title IX violation can visit http://uaf.edu/titleix/ or call UAF Student Health and Counseling at (907) 474-7043 or the Interior Alaska Center for Non-violent Living at (907) 452-2293. All reports are confidential.

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