Student protesters braved wind and rain to shine a light on sexual assault Wednesday evening.
Roughly 40 protesters from the Women’s Student Union and Voices Against Violence held posters with slogans such as, “When a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist and a round thing in your face, you treat her with RESPECT” and “’No’ doesn’t mean ‘Convince me,’” and shouted anti-assault chants as they marched up and down the Spine and stood in front of the New University Union for 20 minutes.
“Yes means yes, no means no, whatever we wear, wherever we go,” shouted Lauren Schauer, president of WSU and a junior majoring in history, as other students echoed the chant.
The march was part of a larger annual event called “Take Back the Night,” in which victims of sexual assault were encouraged to share their experiences.
Natalie Camacho, a graduate from the class of 2011 who majored in business management, described how she was assaulted by a friend and the trouble she had overcoming that memory.
“This is actually the first time I’ve spoken about my rape story in front of a large group of people,” she said. “I came because I’ve heard all these stories about people killing or hurting themselves, and I wanted to show them they are not alone.”
Organizers of the event also used Wednesday evening as an opportunity to better prevent sexual assault on campus.
Kimberly Landgrover, treasurer of WSU and a senior double-majoring in economics and political science, explained the new direction in which WSU was looking.
“Last year it was more focused on repercussion and things that were going to happen after an incident. This year we are more focused on prevention,” she said. “We wanted to change the discourse, because that’s been our theme, our motto for the event this year. We wanted it to be more about prevention and stopping things before they happen.”
Schauer spoke about some of the problems students found on campus, noting freshman who had been given surprising advice at orientation.
“Let’s change the discourse from ‘don’t get raped,’ to ‘don’t rape,’” Schauer said. “People are very sick of that stuff and it’s very common in terms of education on campuses and just in general to put a lot of blame on the victims, to not hold the rapists accountable, to say, ‘Oh well, he was drunk, or this, or that,’ and not see it as the violent crime that it is. We had new members come in this winter and tell me that some of the advice they got about sexual assault was, ‘Tell them you’re on your period.’ It’s disgusting and I kinda wanted to throw up.”
The rally also touched on the frat boy culture of misogyny and a non-aggressive attitude toward catching perpetrators of sexual assault. However, these things were referred to as something most colleges face rather than as exclusive to Binghamton.
Schauer also noted, however, that the University was making improvements, such as hiring Jessica Krohn as interpersonal violence prevention coordinator, as well as lighting the top of Bartle Library Tower purple in honor of sexual assault awareness month.
“I guess they checked the climate of the campus and realized it was time for a change,” Schauer said.
Krohn had planned to speak at the event, but was unable to attend for personal reasons. She responded via email about the improvements on campus.
“I am so energized about the momentum that the students have about addressing sexual assault and interpersonal violence,” she wrote. “I am happy to say I truly believe that the administration is serious about making such improvements.”
Despite the weather and the march itself being shortened, demonstrators and guests were enthusiastic about bringing more attention to sexual assault.
Though the marchers had a lot of energy, the rain kept any sort of audience from gathering. Most students who passed by gave the protest a glance and then kept walking.
Those who did attend were encouraged by the event, but still saw areas for improvement.
“I think it was a good creation of a safe space and I appreciated the amount of guys that attended,” said Sophie Gamer, a freshman majoring in biology, “but I think it would have made a bigger impression during daytime.”