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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 2:07 am | Fair 46º


Student Victim, Supporters Stage All-Day Sexual Assault Sit-In at UCSB

The 20-year-old claims the university didn’t properly enforce its suspension of her alleged rapist

UCSB students join in a sexual assault sit-in Monday in support of a fellow student who protested the way the university has handled the report of her on-campus rape.
UCSB students join in a sexual assault sit-in Monday in support of a fellow student who protested the way the university has handled the report of her on-campus rape. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Twenty-year-old Alejandra Melgoza said she felt violated after a friend she trusted raped her in January 2014, when they were freshmen living in dorms at UC Santa Barbara.

Worse still, she said, was being betrayed again by the university she loves, when officials told her last spring that the likelihood of disciplining him might not be good, or even worth pursuing, because she and her friend were both drinking alcohol at the time.

After building up the courage to file a formal complaint against the student with the UCSB Office of Judicial Affairs last fall — and confronting and sitting next to him during a hearing — she said the university decided last month to suspend the male student for two quarters, banning him from enrolling in spring and summer 2015 classes.

Melgoza, who now lives in nearby Isla Vista, said the accused is still living on campus, however, which means UCSB has not yet properly enforced his academic sanctions.

Friends and supporters surrounded Melgoza on Monday, sitting or standing outside the university’s Student Resource Building during an all-day sexual assault sit-in to protest the mishandling of her case.

The assault has impacted Melgoza both emotionally and academically, as the second-year Chicano studies major struggles to focus on completing school as a first-generation college student and — hopefully — as a future lawyer.

“That puts more stress on me,” she told Noozhawk. “At the end of the day, not only is it a violation of the student code, it’s against the law.”

In a statement Monday, the university said it is fully enforcing the suspension, although officials would not comment more specifically on the case in order to protect the privacy of individuals and to encourage future reporting of cases.

UCSB sitin
At far right, UC Santa Barbara second-year student Alejandra Melgoza speaks to passersby Monday during a sexual assault sit-in she organized on the university's campus. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

“We take concerns raised by our students extremely seriously and as such we look forward to having an opportunity to meet with our students involved in today’s action to continue to discuss their concerns in detail,” the statement said.

Melgoza, who hasn’t filed criminal charges against the accused, said she hosted the sit-in to call upon UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang to review the lax enforcement of judicial affairs sanctions and to raise awareness for a university that perpetuates a culture of silence for victims, although she said it often appears to advocate for survivors of violence.

According to the university, UCSB provides students with 24/7 confidential advocacy services through CARE, its advocate office for sexual and gender-based violence and sexual misconduct.

CARE advocates can help students understand and access reporting options through Title IX, police or the Office of Judicial Affairs, the university statement said, citing a “thorough student conduct process that we recently strengthened by moving sexual assault investigations to our Title IX office, in accordance with UC policy and government guidelines.”

Melgoza said she appealed the suspension decision in favor of more serious actions, possibly expulsion, but the university process hasn’t progressed further.

“It’s a privilege to be at this university,” she said. “I have to continue. I have my goals, and this isn’t going to stop me.”

Because of struggling with the assault last year, Melgoza said she wasn’t able to consider running for a position within the UCSB Associated Students government body.

She said she will run for an off-campus position this year to help advocate for improving the university process, among other issues.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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