Following the Badgers Vote District 8 candidate forum, District 8 Alder candidate Ayomi Obuseh posted a now-deleted Facebook status condemning people who falsely claim to be survivors of sexual assault.
During the forum, District 8 Alder candidate Juliana Bennett mentioned she was a survivor of sexual assault, and as such felt a duty to make the University of Wisconsin campus a safer place. Obuseh’s post came right after the forum and condemned anyone claiming “to be ‘survivors’ of sexual abuse when they aren’t, or using it to humanize themselves or gain empathy.”
Following Obuseh’s Facebook status, Bennett released a statement saying the post was directed at her.
“I’m saddened and appalled by anyone, let alone my opponent, gaslighting my experiences as a survivor,” Bennett said. “1 in 4 women at UW have experienced sexual assault, yet only 1 in 11 cases are reported. Most reports are truthful, but many don’t report for fear of not being believed. My fears were realized last night.”
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Bennett wrote that the campus climate that gaslights survivorship must stop. She also released a press release Wednesday condemning Obuseh for accusing her of lying about being a survivor. The press release said Bennett is still recovering from the atmosphere created by Obuseh’s Facebook post and asked the community to respect Bennett’s privacy.
Obuseh released a statement Wednesday apologizing to those who were triggered by her Facebook post. Her statement also said the post was not directed at Bennett.
“My post was coming from a place of hurt in response to someone I grew up with and felt as though they used the word ‘survivor’ in regards to domestic abuse, a situation which they openly shared with me, in the context of sexual assault and abuse,” Obuseh said in the written statement. “As a survivor of sexual assault, what they had said deeply hurt me and I should have had a one-on-one conversation with them specifically.”
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Obuseh wrote that she has two meetings scheduled with UW administration to discuss improving safety in Madison.
Obuseh also wrote that she took the post down because it was being misdirected at her opponent. Obuseh wrote that people who encouraged her to take it down are escalating the situation and cycle of trauma by sharing screenshots of the post.
“I will be taking some time off social media to not retraumatize myself and ask others to respect my decision,” Obuseh said.
Wednesday, the UW Office of Sustainability canceled an event they planned to hold later that night with Obuseh citing “recent events that have given rise to concerns within the community.”
Additionally, the Young Progressives of UW-Madison posted on their Instagram Wednesday endorsing Bennett for Alder “in light of comments made by Ayomi Obuseh that were harmful towards survivors.”