Connor Bowman was one of two men sitting among a growing crowd of women on the lawn of Strong Hall on Tuesday afternoon. He held a sign that read, "Parking Violation = $$, RAPE = ...?" Women were there to protest sexual assault policies, and Bowman was right there alongside them to show his support.
"I think the gender gap speaks to a larger issue here," Bowman said. "Maybe it's a sign that there should be an effort to change that about our culture."
Bowman has noticed many sexual assault awareness training sessions focus on steps women can take in order to avoid putting themselves in those situations. However, he noted, people don't often take into consideration the man’s actions and how we should address them.
"Everyone always says that women shouldn’t let themselves get drunk enough to put themselves in that situation, which is true,” Bowman said. “But at the same time, they should be able to feel safe no matter what.”
Bowman and several other students voiced their opinions at the Sit Down to Stand Up protest Tuesday afternoon. Dozens of supporters sat on the lawn of Strong Hall holding signs that read, “Our bodies are not learning experiences for rapists” and “Only yes means yes,” among several others.
Zoe Fincher, a sophomore from Lawrence, organized the protest. After she made the event on Facebook, Hobbes Entrikin, a member of September Siblings, messaged her and asked if September Siblings could join her cause.
Fincher wasn’t shocked by the article published in the Huffington Post or by the scrutiny the University has been under in the past two weeks. She said she hopes this protest will combine with other similar protests across the country to create a national discussion. She said her main goal in organizing the protest was to spread the word and gain media attention.
“KU doesn’t want the attention, but it’s what we need if we are going to fix this,” Fincher said.
Fincher specifically planned the protest a couple weeks after the article came out so people wouldn’t forget it after a couple days and move on.
“If we stop talking about it, then it will just get pushed back under the rug and nothing will get fixed,” Fincher said.
Both students and alumni were present at the protest. Among the crowd were CJ Brune and Christine Smith, two women who were part of February Sisters, a women’s rights group on campus in the 70s. Brune and Smith were both part of a similar protest in February 1972 when they were fighting for affirmative action and a daycare at the University.
“It’s been a problem for years,” Brune said. “And the worst part was that they made the woman feel like the perpetrator, like it was her fault.”
Neither of them are surprised by the problems.
“When we were in college, they would essentially just tell girls just to ‘relax and enjoy it,’ and apparently that’s still their attitude,” Smith said.
The September Siblings gave a list of demands to the Institutional Opportunity and Access and the University they would like to see the administration adhere to. They requested the demands be met by spring 2015, but have yet to hear from administration.
Last week Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little formed a sexual assault task force that will review current policies and practices, and provide recommendations on how they can be improved. Since this announcement, no recognizable changes have been made.
Emma Halling, student body president, showed her support at the protest. The last contact with IOA or the University she had was almost two weeks ago. She said she is concerned the task force was created just to pacify the people so scrutiny will go away and no changes will be made.
“They’re aware that the spotlight is on them,” Halling said. “The fact that this is occurring after the task force was created shows that more needs to be done.”
Until those demands are met, students like Fincher and members of the September Siblings will continue to rally support and raise awareness on campus. By using hashtags like #AGreatPlaceToBeUnsafe and #dontexploreku, they hope to convince the University to change its policies.
“KU has a great opportunity to become a national leader from all of this,” Bowman said. “The students recognize that there’s a problem, and they should be mad. But the overall message is a positive one.”
— Edited by Casey Hutchins