At an open forum Tuesday night held by the September Siblings, a new campus organization working to change the University sexual assault policies, discussion ranged from survivors’ stories to the lack of education and training to the frustration with victim-blaming. The recurring topic was a call for the University to make a change in its policies.
“One of the things I heard over and over tonight, which I thought was really remarkable and exciting was the call for KU to be a leader on this issue, to be a national leader, and I think that’s very possible,” said Alesha Doan, chair of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies.
Around 275 people, including students, faculty, advocates and community members, attended the meeting at the Ecumenical Christian Ministries.
The discussion began with the September Siblings sharing its demands and showing an anti-recruitment video it will promote until the University sexual assault policies change.
“We’ve organized this event because voices aren’t being heard by KU administration, because students are experiencing sexual violence and they have no control over what justice they receive,” said Hobbes Entrikin, a junior and a September Sibling member who helped organize the forum. “KU administration is not allowing students to be involved in a way that will change policies.”
One survivor shared her story of being raped while trying to ensure a friend’s safety. Another survivor said she had been raped by a close friend and still wasn’t completely comfortable calling it rape because of their relationship.
The goal of the forum was to create a space for people to share these stories, along with messages of support and calls to change policies to support victims, Entrikin said.
“This conversation has helped put a face on the idea of rape and surviving rape, which is something people don’t seem to understand and connect with, so providing a connection is making a very big difference in this,” Entrikin said.
Emma Halling, a senior from Elkhart, Ind., and acting student body president, said changes need to happen because they are negatively affecting the education and environment at the University.
“If women are being raped at this 20 percent rate and the University is not doing everything in its power to a) prevent it and b) remedy the situations after it happened they are inhibiting these women’s, these survivors’ ability to pursue their education here,” Halling said.
Angela Murphy, a graduate teaching assistant and development coordinator for the Title IX Roundtable said in a Sept. 8 interview that student-led discussions are what motivate change.
“When you have students, young people, age ranges over a decade, gathering together over the same issue then you are doing something right,” Murphy said. “I fully believe that that’s the one thing we are doing right is students mobilizing to affect positive change at the University.”
Halling said students can continue putting pressure on the University to change by discussing it in class and writing to the chancellor.
Doan also said students can continue to push for change through social media and spreading the word.
“Creating a consent culture is not as difficult as we pretend it is as a society,” Doan said.
Members of the organization called for 10 demands of the University:
-An investigation of the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access and Student Affairs;
-having a victim advocate involved in the judicial process;
-an immediate budget increase to $35,000 for the Emily Taylor Center;
-mandatory sexual assault training for students;
-increasing the minimum punishment for sexual assault;
-revision of sexual assault policies;
-the revisions to be done by a committee of at least 51 percent students;
-reinvestigating sexual assault cases of those still at the University;
-allowing for filers to appeal cases;
-eliminating the term non-consensual sex.
“We will be heard one way or another,” Entrikin said.
— Edited by Casey Hutchins