April 14, 2006

Students advocate ending sexual violence

Students walking through the southeast entrance of Bartlett Quad between 11:45 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday were greeted by a row of about 10 silent demonstrators. The students remained motionless, while two additional demonstrators passed out fliers and green ribbons as part of the Standing Silent Witness Demonstration.

According to event organizer Nissa Thompson, a fourth-year in the College, the purpose of Standing Silent was to raise awareness and create dialogue on campus about sexual violence.

“Sexual abuse and rape have become a very taboo subject to talk about…we hope to break the silence,” Thompson said. “[Sexual violence] is still prevalent in our society…We can’t just sweep it under the rug.”

Each of the students participating wore a green T-shirt, hand-decorated by victims of sexual violence. One T-shirt read, “At age 8, rape became my reality”; another stated, “Your disbelief felt like second rape.” Thompson, who wore a shirt with the phrase “No consent, No Sex,” acknowledged that there had been some surprise at the bluntness of many of the T-shirts.

This was the second Standing Silent demonstration at the University. The first was held in April 2005.

Sponsoring the event was Southside Sexual Assault and Violence Educators (SAVE), a group of mostly U of C students trained as rape crisis counselors. Approximately 40 percent of the group’s efforts is spent in activism on the University campus itself, while the remaining 60 percent is used in educating the greater South Side community, according to the organization’s web site.

The general response to the demonstration on the quad appeared mostly positive, with many students offering thanks to the demonstrators.

However, there remained some confusion as to the purpose of the event.

“It was a good idea, but it wasn’t really explained,” said Myra Awodey, a first-year in the College.

In addition to participating in the demonstration itself, the members of SAVE distributed green ribbons emblazoned with the slogan “Stop Rape,” which can be seen tied around trees in the main quad.