UC Irvine students and community members came together to speak out against sexual assault and violence toward women during the Anteater Speaker Series event “No Woman Left Behind” on Wednesday, April 25 in the Student Center’s Pacific Ballroom D.
Sponsored in part by the UCI Health Education Center, and the Campus Assault Resources and Education (CARE) Office, the event featured speeches from Lauren Bryeans, April Grolle and Sabrina Sadler.
These three young women told their stories about sexual assault prevention and what other people can do to take a stand.
Before the women gave their speeches and participated in a question-and-answer session with the audience, they showed a news segment from the television show “20/20” that explained how they intervened with a sexual assault case and why they are so concerned with this topic.
The clip elaborated on the events of March 3, 2007, the night when soccer teammates and friends April Grolle, Lauren Bryeans and Lauren Chief Elk attended a college men’s baseball party at De Anza Community College in Cupertino, California. The girls thought that it would be just a “typical college party” until they sensed that something wasn’t right as soon as they were about to leave.
Exploring the house to see if anything was askew, the girls pushed their way into a bedroom to find a 17-year-old girl being gang-raped by about 10 members of the baseball team.
The three girls raced over to the unconscious girl, where they discovered that her pants were ripped off and vomit was streaming down her face (investigations later showed that the vomit was not her own).
The girls recalled that the boys “casually walked out” as soon as they entered, sensing that they had been caught in a questionable act.
Grolle, Bryeans and Elk immediately had a feeling that this act was not consensual and thought that they had just witnessed a sexual assault.
The trio rushed the girl to the hospital, notified the authorities and volunteered to testify as witnesses in any court hearing.
After thorough investigation from the sheriff’s department and the district attorney, no charges were pressed due to a lack of evidence to convict.
The women felt that the 17-year-old girl did not receive any justice for the event that they felt was so clearly an assault.
“Since that night, we’ve been dedicated to speaking out against sexual assault in a unique and relatable way,” Grolle said when explaining why they tell their story at college campuses whenever they can.
Grolle, Bryeans and Elk worked together with Sabrina Sadler to co-found the “No Woman Left Behind” campaign.
Sadler was a student at California State University, Sacramento when she heard about the De Anza Community College case and decided that something needed to be done to prevent situations like this. She collaborated with the three women to create this advocacy program that educates students on sexual assault prevention.
The “No Woman Left Behind” campaign is now a subset of “One Student,” which is a national non-profit organization that provides students and their allies with resources and programs that concern sexual violence.
The women talked about “bystander intervention,” which is a simple technique that can be used to save lives.
Sadler explained that people can assist in similar situations by stopping an action when they see it or by bringing in the appropriate people who can cease the assault.
“We can’t rely on the justice system, that’s why bystander intervention is so important,” Grolle said.
The “No Woman Left Behind” event also coincided with “Denim Day,” which is a day dedicated to changing people’s perceptions about sexual assault and consent.
“Denim Day” came into place after an Italian Supreme Court ruling to release a man from rape charges because the woman was wearing jeans. The judge contended that because the woman was wearing tight jeans, she must have assisted the man in removing them, which translated to consensual sex.
Grolle, Bryeans and Elk furthered the message of “Denim Day” by reiterating that a particular clothing style has nothing to do with consent and sexual assault.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in a tube top and dancing on a table, or if you’re sitting on the couch in a turtleneck and reading the Bible … demeanor and appearance have nothing to do with it,” Bryeans said.
She explained her frustration with respect to how people justify assault simply because of one’s manner of dress. This rationale contuinues to be disputed in courts.
The three women closed their talk with questions from the audience and a final message that anyone can save a life with simple intervention.
“Respect yourself and respect other women,” Grolle said.“And if you see something wrong — step in.”