Dressed with sprigs of bright flowers in their hair and singing along to Destiny Child’s “Survivor,” demonstrators marched from the Quarry Plaza to the clock tower in a rally to “end the radical acceptance of rape culture,” according to the event’s Facebook page.
The rally took place on International Women’s Day, March 8. It began around noon at the Quarry Plaza and students and community members marched their way to the clock tower at 1:30 p.m.
“A huge intention behind the rally was to note that rape is a political and social issue and not a private or individual issue,” said Courtney Hanson, who is part of Feminits Working on Real Democracy (“F Word), the organization that helped bring the event together. “One way we see rape culture manifested is how the only prevention made available or being discussed is surrounding the victim rather than addressing its prevalence.”
Students, staff and community members attended the event. The rally began at the Quarry Plaza where several students shared personal stories about issues ranging from rape, transphobia or sexual and gender-related violence.
“Sexism, hate, violence, racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives,” said Ashley Nguyen, a member of F Word who said it was important to use difference to rally around a cause. “We need to realize that yes, these are individual experiences of hate, but the hate is systemic.”
Another speaker was Pamela Scott, a 44-year-old undergraduate student. Scott shared her personal story dealing with rape.
“I’ve been silent for too long,” Scott said. “I had to keep quiet when I was raped by my uncle and when I was gang raped at 14. I had not worked through those wounds. I held shame, which perpetuated my silence.”
Another speaker, Eliana Willis, performed her rendition of the song “I Like Giants” by Kimya Dawson.
“The song is partly about women who feel insecure or depressed,” Willis said. “One way we can feel secure and find our place is through activism and demonstrations like these.”
After Willis’ performance, attendees gathered their signs and belongings to march 3.5 miles to the clock tower.
Demonstrators carried signs that featured phrases like “Consent is Sexy” and shared several chants. The rally caught attention from surrounding traffic as drivers honked their horns in support.
“I had a quiz today for my class but I thought this is more worthwhile of my time,” said one student who preferred to remain anonymous.
For some students attending the event, the rally was a reaction to the recent sexual violence that happened on campus and the way in which the campus administration responded.
“The administration could have addressed how common rape is and how it is commonly afflicted by acquaintances, not strangers,” Hanson said. “Rape is made into a private and personal issue rather than an issue of power. We need to provide spaces for discussions for solutions.”
The rally aimed to spread an awareness for the way in which rape is treated as a crime.
“I wish we could talk about rape as much as we talk about a car theft or burglary,” Scott said. “I wish rape wouldn’t be treated as an individual problem.”