A demonstration organized in response to last weekend’s reported sexual assault occurred on Friday to express solidarity for survivors of sexual violence.
The demonstration, which was organized by the women’s and gender studies department, ended on Dexter Lawn.
“We wanted a way as a broad women’s and gender studies community to demonstrate that we are in solidarity with the survivors of sexual assault,” women’s and gender studies department chair Jane Lehr said. “We are in solidarity with the first responders on this campus, who do such hard and complicated and important work. And we want to be partners in changing the culture of Cal Poly to one that is violence-free.”
The demonstration was organized quickly after women’s and gender studies faculty decided Thursday afternoon they should organize a response sooner rather than later. Lehr sent out an email around 8 p.m. on Thursday, and approximately 100 people showed up to the demonstration, she said. She was pleased with the turnout.
“Most of Cal Poly — almost all of Cal Poly — is against sexual assault and wants to have a violence-free campus,” Lehr said. “I think we can achieve that, and this has filled me with so much hope and inspiration, I’m so excited about what happened today.”
Students expressed a desire to show support, and some were motivated by personal experiences.
“My best friend was sexually assaulted, and I lived with them,” environmental management senior Gabrielle Watson said. “After it happened, I just watched her whole life fall apart. So if I didn’t do something I would just feel like — there has to be some kind of hope, so I had to do something.”
Representatives from Triota, Cal Poly’s feminist activist community and women’s and gender studies honors society took part in the demonstration.
Maggie McHale, a sociology junior and Triota president said the woman who reported last week’s sexual assault was being criticized by some Cal Poly students over social media, and Triota wanted to support her and those like her.
“She’s gone through a lot,” McHale said. “So we hope that showing that people support her and that people are inspired by her braveness will help her, or maybe help other women or men report.”
Sam Holzer, a history junior and Triota officer said he wanted to do something physical to represent how much he cared about the issue.
Holzer said Triota is also planning to send a letter to Cal Poly explaining problems the group sees in the university’s emails about the reported sexual assault. Holzer said the guidelines in the email placed responsibility on victims of the crimes, and didn’t include information about the importance of bystander intervention and gaining affirmative consent before engaging in sex.
Holzer also said Triota will push the university to have members of greek life receive Safer training once a year, rather than just training new members. Triota would also like to see campus and greek organizations where sexual assaults occur given fewer chances before being removed from campus.