Protesters gathered on the UA Mall Thursday to rally against rape culture and sexual assault on campus.
The University of Arizona Oasis Program Against Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence and the Women’s Resource Center started setting up their protest on the Mall at 11 a.m., with information booths and posters displaying ways rape can be stopped. From noon to around 2 p.m., the gathering caught the attention of many students in front of the Administration building.
Dean Saxton — also known as Brother Dean Samuel — interrupted the protest from nearby on Heritage Hill, which was covered in U.S. flags for the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Saxton shouted down the protesters and voiced his opposition to Muslims for the 9/11 anniversary.
Megan McKendry, violence prevention specialist at Oasis, said the program’s presence on the Mall was to show support for rape survivors.
“We are here today to show survivors that the campus community supports them and that we don’t stand for victim blaming,” McKendry said. “We want to challenge a culture that blames victims for what happened to them, because only rapists are responsible for rape.”
The Daily Wildcat recently published an opinions column by Rob Monteleone titled, “Only responsibility can stop rape.” The controversy surrounding the column sparked today’s protest.
Both Oasis and the Women’s Resource Center worked with a group of students who wanted to organize an event to address the column.
“We’re here because the students that we work with in the Women’s Resource Center and Oasis really wanted to have a presence for response to the column that was published in the Daily Wildcat,” said Hannah Lozon, acting program director for the Women’s Resource Center.
The students that participated in the protest against blaming victims for rape held up posters showing their individual perspectives on how an individual can stop rape and started chanting, “Whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no!”
Both programs were concerned about how the UA community was going to be perceived after the published column. They were also concerned about how it would impact the rape and sexual assault survivors on campus.
“We hope to show survivors and speak out alongside survivors to show them that there are people on campus that support them and ultimately, we want to change campus culture,” McKendry said. “Let everyone know that this campus doesn’t condone sexual assault.”
McKendry said she was also concerned with how the column reflected the UA campus and how survivors might be affected by it.
“We want to create a really positive message to counter those very negative messages on our campus,” McKendry said.
Lili Steffen, a sociology sophomore, helped out at the Women’s Resource Center informational booth.
“Rape is something that can definitely be stopped, and if we continue having people that speak about rape in those ways by saying it’s basically your responsibility to stop it instead of stopping rape itself, that’s definitely the problem that I saw with that opinion article,” Steffen said.
Other organizations were also at the protest. Ramon Duarte, a history graduate student, represented the Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault.
“I have experienced sexual assault, and I know people who have experienced sexual assault and rape, and the way that Mr. Monteleone wrote about it is not how it should be talked about,” Duarte said. “I think that the issue of sexual assault and rape, whether on college campuses or nationwide, is not a topic that should be open to debate.”
—Follow Jocelyn Valencia @_JocelynV_