Students and members of the University of Wisconsin community gathered on top of Bascom Hill for the International Socialist Organization’s Rally Against Sexual Assault Tuesday night.
In the wake of recent sexual assault allegations against UW senior Alec Cook, a crowd of about 500 made its way across campus and the downtown area from Bascom Hill to Langdon St. to East Campus Mall. As the crowd mobilized, chants of “Whose bodies? Our bodies,” and “gay, straight, black, white, one struggle, one fight,” rang through the streets.
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An Association of American Colleges 2015 survey reported that one in four undergraduate women have been sexually assaulted on campus.
“It’s time for our campus to take a visible stand against sexual assault and rape culture, and to say loud and clear to women, ‘We hear you and we believe you,’” ISO said in their Facebook page for the event.
Some protestors told their stories of sexual assault and rape during the rally, claiming that UW and the police did not do enough for them.
Kim Gasper-Rabuck, 1987 UW alumna and ISO organizer, said she was sexually assaulted multiple times since the age of seven — including while at UW.
“I’m not saying you have to go to the police, because you know what, the police don’t treat you very damn well,” Gasper-Rabuck said. “But you should talk to somebody.”
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Protestors provided information on campus resources other than the police, including the student organization, Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment, and the Campus Women’s Center located at East Campus Mall.
Many patrons protested against the recent election of Donald Trump — who has double digit sexual assault allegations against him — as president the night before, claiming they would not except him as their president.
“The electoral college just elected a rapist who sexually gropes women and brags about it,” Gasper-Rabuck said. “I’ll tell you what, this bastard is not my president.”
Gasper-Rabuck said people are going to be divided, but that the community has to remain diversified and unified. Gasper-Rabuck claimed the group of people who attended the rally is a reflection of what a true democracy looks like.
Alex Rice, a UW sophomore, said the presidential outcome is another cry for women to have their rights protected. Rice emphasized how important it is for men to support women and victims of sexual assault.
“It is especially important for men to come out, because it is us that need to change,” Rice said. “The first step is to tell women that we believe you and that we care about you and that we are going to fight for your right.”
Elizabeth Roberts, a junior at UW, said it is very comforting to see males in the crowd. Men need to attend these rallies and events in order for women to be taken seriously, Roberts said.
Men attending sexual assault rallies is equivalent to white people attending Black Lives Matter rallies, Alberto Kanost, a UW sophomore, said.
“A lot of minorities are leading the conversation, but we really need white allies to lead the conversation,” Kanost said. “In this situation, we really need men and women to stand together and lead the conversation, not just survivors.”
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There were no police present during the rally. The rally was co-sponsored by UW Blackout, Socialist Alternative, If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice and Graduate Worker Union for UW-Madison.
Gasper-Rabuck reflected on the importance of Wednesday not only as the day after the election, but also a day of solidarity against sexual assault.
“November 9th for me will be an important thing in my mind always, because this is the day Donald Trump became president, and this is the day I saw 500 people come out of their dorms and apartment buildings to march in the dark for women’s rights,” Gasper-Rabuck said.