Featured image from the Athens News by Devin Wistendahl
After 12 sexual assault crimes were reported to the police since early August, a group of Ohio University students organized a rally named “It’s on us, Bobcats” to support survivors and stand up to sexual assault. This student-run rally took place September 27 on College Green at 7:30 p.m and included a march down Court Street.
The rally was designed to make those who have been impacted by sexual assault feel supported by their community. The organizers of the rally saw the sudden surge of student activism and wanted to find an outlet for the students who want to show support.
Since the rally, the university has made changes to increase safety on campus. OUPD has increased safety patrols and has partnered with the residence halls to hold meetings discussing safety. Emergency phones are located at the main entrances of each residence hall as well as Blue Light Phones located all across campus and along the bike path surrounding campus. The police department offers Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes each semester and is planning on adding more.
There is a number on the back of all student IDs for the CATS Late Night Shuttle Service so that students do not have to walk alone.
“Our goal is to demonstrate how many more students are there to safely stand by your side when you’re afraid,” student Cody Shanklin, an event organizer said.
In the first four weeks of school this semester, there have been about twelve reported sexual assault crimes on campus. The cultural impact of the recent crimes has been immense with different groups on campus showing their support for the victims.
“We can’t accept this situation with sexual assault here on campus; it’s a broader issue and we want to shine a light on it,” said journalism graduate student Nhi Le. “We also stand in solidarity with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as her testimony was today.”
The rally also served as a chance to bring like minded students and members of the community together on an important issue.
“We want to show solidarity as a community and make it known in this community that predatory behavior will not be accepted and hopefully make the streets a little safer,” journalism graduate student Tess Herman said.
Being a part of the rally was an emotional experience for some students.
“I am very excited to see students at Ohio University taking a stand on such an important issue,” freshman student who attended the rally, Emma Stefano said. “Being at something as powerful as ‘It’s on us, Bobcats’ brought me to tears.”
The rally had representatives from Survivor Advocacy Program and the Survivor Advocacy Outreach program if people needed additional support or sources.
“We’re here because it’s a student led effort and we have a lot of students that might be impacted… so our role has really just been to help our students to bring this to fruition,” Jennifer Seifert, director of the Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, said. “Rallies have a way of motivating people and creating momentum that can often times result in other events over time. It can bring together like minded people and light a fire under folks to take activism in their own way.”
Some students agree that while faculty on campus can play a role in supporting students affected, they can not help as much when it comes to a cultural standpoint. The cultural change must come from students who want to make a difference.
“We are promoting the idea that the administration can only do so much to change the culture on our campus, but it’s ultimately up to us as students to be better bystanders, intervene when something doesn’t seem right, and ultimately prevent more acts of sexual violence,” Shanklin said.