Get Involved: Verity

October 12, 2015
Logo for Verity

Volunteer and intern for Verity to support victims of sexual violence, be involved in educating youth, and help with other programs dedicated to ending sexual violence. See here for the many ways to get involved.

Ashley Simon
Ashley Simon Alvarez

Content Warning for sexual violation including rape; this post is part of a series that deals with intersectional gender-based violence.

"I got involved with Verity because I was looking for an internship that allows me to gain experience in a field that reflects my Women's Health minor. I enjoy working with them because I feel that it is important to educate ourselves on topics like sexual assault to know what is happening to people in our community and what we can do to help them."
- Jenny Mangandi, 4th year Early Childhood Studies major and Women's Health minor

College campuses are now more openly addressing the high rate of sexual assault and rape on colleges. One in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are victims of attempted or completed sexual assault on campus.[1] California's Yes Means Yes policy defines affirmative sexual consent and the mandatory sexual assault awareness training for staff, faculty and students demonstrates the recent effort to combat sexual violence. However, students and the community as a whole have to do more than commit an hour online to ending sexual violence. That's where Verity comes in.

Verity, formerly known as United Against Sexual Assault (UASA), offers prevention education, counseling groups, crisis intervention and training centered around rape and other forms of sexual abuse and violence with a mission of eliminating all forms of violence. As Verity is Sonoma County's only rape crisis and relief center, the organization has a large role in supporting victims of assault in Sonoma County.

Why should students get involved?
Some groups of people are more likely to be assaulted than others. Women of color are more likely to be assaulted than white women, with Native American women being the most vulnerable. [1] The myths surrounding the sexuality of women of color are a violent and pervasive combination of racism and sexism.

Another factor that makes people more vulnerable are myths around men and masculinity. The masculinity that is taught to young boys stifles expression of emotions, often values dominance over femininity, demands cisheteronormativity*, and suggests that not performing this type of masculinity is an invalidation of one's gender. The violation and trauma associated with sexual assault is seen as feminine and obscures the way that masculine people, boys, and men can be victims of violence.

Many volunteers/interns of Verity go into k-12 schools to give tailored prevention education to youth appropriate for their age, stage, and development. The education can range from teaching kids to keep their hands to themselves and saying "no" all the way to discussions on bystander intervention and rape culture.

Verity also has a group specifically for women assaulted in the military. In 2012, the prevalence of military sexual abuse was brought to the public's attention with the award winning documentary, The Invisible War. Women and men in service often do not report out of fear that their commanders will mishandle the cases. [2] According to "Sexual harassment and assault experienced by reservists during military service: Prevalence and health correlates," sexual assault is the leading cause of PTSD in women veterans. [3]

What majors should consider getting involved?
Verity gets most of their interns from Criminology and Criminal JusticeWomen's and Gender Studies, and Psychology. However, they work with any major. If you are not in any of these departments, it doesn't mean that your field doesn't match with the organization, but it does mean that you should talk to your adviser and to the organization first about how the organization can use the knowledge in your major.

Students should also think about going to the Service and Internship Fair (also called Involvement and Service Fair) that is every Fall semester to look for this organization and more.

[Related: Get Involved: Positive Images]

*Cisheteronormativity has three parts. "Cis" refers to cisgender, the opposite of transgender, communicating that a person's gender and the gender they are coercively assigned at birth by medical institutions are the same. "Hetero" refers to heterosexuality. Normativity is an assumed standard that people are expected to uphold. Cisheteronormativity can be understood as the experiences of cisgender heterosexual people posited as the standard for all people, invalidating the existences and lives of queer and trans people.

1. National Sexual Violence Resource Center Info and Stats for Journalists: Statistics About Sexual Violence

2. Pentagon Study Finds 50% Increase in Reports of Military Sexual Assault

3. Street et al. (2008). Sexual harassment and assault experienced by reservists during military service. Prevalence and health correlates. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development 45: 409-420.