PARC’s advocacy for Sexual Assault Awareness Month — the line of work from the lens of its leaders
The Justice spoke to Tanashya Batra ’21 and Grace Lee ’22 to learn more about their roles, PARC’s impact and how PARC took action for Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the history of efforts to end sexual violence in America and raise “awareness and prevention of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse" can be traced "from the civil rights movement to the founding of the first rape crisis centers to national legislation.” This year marked the 20th Anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which is celebrated every April. On Friday, April 30, the Justice interviewed Tanashya Batra ’21 and Grace Lee ’22 from the Prevention, Advocacy & Resource Center over Zoom to learn more about their work, and what PARC has done to join with members of the Brandeis community during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“PARC is part of the Health and Wellness Office on campus, [and] most of our staff (about 24 [people]) are students, with [an additional] two full-time staff members. But PARC started as a result of student activism and advocacy,” Batra said. According to Batra, PARC was started in 2015, when students demanded a designated space on campus to engage in anti-violence work and educate others on the sources of violence. The organization was initially made up of two separate offices, the Rape Crisis Center (for advocacy) and the Office of Prevention Services (for prevention training), but the two offices currently reside under the same umbrella of PARC.
Both Batra and Lee work with PARC as Peer Advocates, who support members of the Brandeis community who have faced instances of violence through confidential support via drop-in office hours, an online chat or appointments. Batra also works as PARC's Violence and Prevention Educator and the Training and Events Coordinator. In these roles, Batra organizes the bystander trainings, which take place during New Student Orientation and are given to all student club leaders, members of the Student Union, all study abroad students, students involved in athletics and Greek Life members.
Batra has been working with PARC since her second semester at Brandeis. “I had worked in menstrual hygiene when I was living in boarding school in India, and I saw so many cases of domestic and sexual assault, that I really couldn’t do anything about," she said, "What really drew me to [PARC], was I wanted the resources and a way to help people.” For Batra, both roles allow her to provide one-on-one support for her peers and also help her educate others on the topics that PARC advocates for.
For Lee, a Peer Advocate and the Media and Communications Manager of PARC, what drew her to PARC was their emphasis on violence prevention. She said, “You see a lot of other schools having this service, but I think our violence prevention team goes above and beyond to educate and evolve with our community.” As the Media and Communications Manager, Lee’s work involves creating promotions, graphics and violence prevention education initiatives, and reaching out to other clubs for collaborations.
This April, the PARC team worked together to create a series of events to commemorate Sexual Assault Awareness Month, many of which were highlighted via Instagram. The main events consisted of Take Back the Night, a discussion with the National Women’s Law Center, a higher education panel with Brown University and tabling at the Brandeis Booths for both Deis Denim Day and to provide Five Senses Grounding kits.
“Thinking about Take Back the Night, we actually worked with the Black Action Plan, allowing them to lead a breakout room,” said Lee. “Finding the intersection between our line of work and other partners has been really exciting.” The event also had two additional breakout rooms, one for self-preservation, and the second for journaling and self-reflection. For both Lee and Batra, it has been an invigorating experience to collaborate with other offices and clubs and give them the opportunity to lead in conversations on how to be active on campus and within their communities against sexual violence.
PARC also utilized the Brandeis Booths in Fellows Garden, which were launched this school year to facilitate more pandemic-safe in-person elements for events. Besides the Booths’ aesthetic nature — with lights tied from the booths to trees, hanging over a popular pathway on the lower part of the Brandeis campus — they have allowed for an increase in outdoor congregation, often attracting students that walk by, and further integrating them within the Brandeis network.
For PARC’s Deis Denim Day, there was both an in-person and an online component to the event. Students were able to visit the Brandeis Booths, show their support by wearing denim and pick up a goodie bag. The particular reasoning behind wearing denim is both historical and symbolic, Lee explained: “In 1998, the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape conviction saying that the defendant who was wearing tight jeans, implied that she consented and must’ve helped take them off … and blamed her that she allowed [the rape] to happen.” The next day, Italian women in Parliament protested by wearing jeans to work. “By wearing denim, what we are saying is, our bodies and what we wear are not an invitation,” Lee stated.
The online component of Deis Denim Day took place on social media. Through a social media campaign, PARC was able to increase the level of interaction with the Brandeis community online by conducting a social media raffle. Students had to follow PARC on Instagram, post a story of themselves wearing denim and tag PARC, and answer the prompt “I wear denim because …,” and one entrant won a Levi denim jacket prize.
The Brandeis Booths also provided the perfect location for PARC to give out Five Senses Grounding kits as finals season approaches. The grounding kits included essential oils, mugs, squishy objects and more to heighten the five senses. “The kits will give students something to do during the Zoom breaks,” Batra explained. "Folks are going to be on Zoom for three hours at a time, doing an exam."
When asked what they both enjoyed most about working for PARC, both Batra and Lee noted the closeness of the PARC team. Lee said, “I love our meetings where we brainstorm fun and creative ideas. It's nice having a fun environment, especially for our line of work, because we’re students, and we’re human.” Batra echoed Lee’s response, saying, “We have an amazing team, everyone brings their own unique set of values and skills, and we just all gel so well together. … We always talk about how the work we do is very serious, but we don’t have to be.”