Title IX graduate interns shine a light on sexual violence and sexual harassment research

SVSH spotlight banner with blue and yellow geometric designs
Two UC Santa Cruz graduate students are working to showcase campus research focused on  preventing, responding to, and addressing gender-based violence, harassment, and discrimination with a new online spotlight series.

Title IX interns Natali Levin Schwartz and Brenda Gutierrez created the Spotlight on Sexual Violence Sexual Harassment (SVSH) Campus Research as an extension of last year’s 2021 Sexual Violence Sexual Harassment Symposium hosted by the UCSC Coordinated Community Review Team and a former Title IX graduate intern, Sona Kaur. 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Coordinated by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, SAAM is a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault and educate individuals and communities about how to prevent sexual violence. This April, as organizations across the country offer numerous programs, initiatives, and events highlighting the impact sexual violence has within our society, two University of California, Santa Cruz graduate students will be working hard to do the same.

The 2021 symposium brought nearly 100 campus community members together in conversation about how to use empirical research to inform best practices for responding to sexual violence and sexual harassment. The Title IX Office plans to host another SVSH Symposium in 2023. In the meantime, Levin Schwartz and Gutierrez created the spotlight to ensure the conversations started in last year’s symposium carry on uninterrupted. 

Levin Schwartz and Gutierrez said the spotlight is meant to bring awareness to a topic that people often prefer not to consider. Though the work of Title IX has done much to bring greater attention to sexual assault, especially on college campuses, openly discussing sexual violence and sexual harrasment can still be challenging for many. 

“We want the spotlight to make people familiar,” Levin Schwartz explained. “These are things that are happening. These are the people who are working on this. These are the questions they are asking. These are maybe some of the solutions they are finding in their research. Maybe some of this research could be helpful in thinking about preventative efforts in Title IX, trauma-informed response to survivors, through the CARE office, through the SHOP office, or anything else related to sexual violence and sexual harrassment on campus.” 

Published monthly, the spotlight will feature the work of researchers across disciplines and divisions. Both fifth-year doctoral students with research interests in gender-based discrimination, sexual violence, and sexual harassment, Levin Schwartz and Gutierrez did not have to look far to identify the subjects for the first two spotlights: themselves. Levin Schwartz’s dissertation research, Testimony, Resistance, and Sexual Violence: Towards a Political Theory of Testimony as a Democratic Practice, is April’s feature. Gutierrez’s work, Linking Ambivalent Sexism to Violence-Against-Women Attitudes and Behaviors: A Multilevel Meta-Analytic Review, will be featured in May. Come June, they want to shine the light on other researchers in the UC Santa Cruz community. 

Levin Schwartz and Gutierrez are calling for other campus researchers to submit their research to be featured in future spotlights. They want to amplify the work of undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and staff who are researching issues of sex- and gender-based discrimination, including topics of sexual violence and harassment. Anyone conducting such research should consider submitting their work via the Title IX SVSH Research Spotlight Submission form.

By promoting the work of many across campus, the Title IX graduate interns hope their new platform will also build a bridge between researchers, practitioners, and policymakers. This bridge is essential to promoting collaboration that will improve sexual violence prevention efforts on campus. 

“For us, as researchers, who do some more practical work in the Title IX [office], we get to see how important it is to put different worlds in conversation,” Levin Schwartz said. “Our work in Title IX is informed by our research, and, at the same time, our work in Title IX crystalizes our thoughts about our own research. This experience made me think about the importance of putting into conversation people who do such important work but oftentimes they don’t know about each other’s work.”

More than benefiting researchers and practitioners, ideally these connections will also facilitate conversations that benefit students and the broader campus community. Gutierrez spoke of the effort’s potential, “hopefully this spotlight is the branch and then, from there, multiple things can grow from people’s collaboration.” Both Levin Schwarts and Gutierrez get excited thinking about the possibilities that could come from a staff member collaborating with a researcher to better inform and advance their unit’s effort to address sexual violence and sexual harassment. 

Gutierrez also shared her hopes for the spotlight to create a community of support.

“As someone who does this work, you can feel very overwhelmed by the state of things,” she said. “I’m reading a paper from the early 90s and thinking these issues are still coming up [today]. Knowing that a lot of other people besides me are doing this work is helpful. There are other people on campus doing this work. It’s a big network. People care about this issue. I feel like knowing this is a supportive aspect of this work. It’s important.”