In the sea of people marching down Third Street, one woman’s sign stood out. A plastic pink lei was wrapped around the wooden stick that held it.
“So glad my sister doesn’t go here,” it read.
This was just one of many posters at the Shatter the Silence march and rally, a protest to raise awareness for sexual violence on IU’s campus and to demand action from the University. The crowd of around 100 people wore white T-shirts with teal ribbons printed on them, the symbol for sexual assault awareness, and the words “Shatter the Silence” written in script.
The group marched about a mile and a half chanting “No more violence, shatter the silence” and “Me too, IU. Shame on you, IU.” Once they arrived at Dunn Meadow, Ellie Johnson, one of the two organizers of the event, spoke along with the IUSA chief of staff and two survivors.
“It’s unfortunate we have to beg for our rights, but here we are,” Johnson said to the crowd.
IU spokesman Chuck Carney said the University appreciates students' attention to these matters and support their efforts to speak out.
"We stand behind our processes which are fair, thorough, and equitable for all students," Carney said. "In orientation, later on arrival to campus and again in their first year, IU students participate in programming that addresses sexual assault education. IU will continue to lead in educating all students on matters of sexual assault prevention."
Johnson, a survivor, went viral in June after calling out IU’s sexual violence policies on Twitter. The post gained over 2,000 retweets and 5,000 likes and prompted a response from the University.
Some social media posts also featured Johnson naming the panelists involved with her case and their contact and personal information. On July 10, Johnson posted on Twitter she filed a Title IX complaint with the Office of Civil Rights, a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of Education.
At the rally, Celeste Coughlin, another organizer, read from a letter written by the organizers calling for IU to publicly recognize sexual violence as an issue at the University, explain how they will hold sexual predators accountable, meet the needs of survivors and issue a statement of support and commitment to survivors.
“We deserve a system that handles sexual violence as seriously as it handles plagiarism,” Coughlin read from the letter.
They intend to turn the letter in Monday, Johnson said, and encouraged people to sign it at the rally.
IUSA Chief of Staff Isabel Mishkin said her administration wants to learn more about sexual violence on IU’s campus and make sure the University is truly supporting survivors. She wants students to have a seat at the table when IU handles this issue.
“The best decisions that happen at IU are the ones that include students,” Mishkin said.
IUSA’s President Alex Wisniewski participated in the rally, too, holding a sign that read “Shatter the Silence.”
The next speaker, junior Hannah Patton, talked about a loophole in IU’s investigations. Her alleged attacker transferred schools during his investigation. He faced no consequences and is a member of a fraternity at a different school, she said.
“He has the opportunity to do it to someone else,” Patton said.
The other survivor, Xakilah Daniel, experienced domestic violence and said she used to blame herself for letting it happen.
“I’m no longer a girl that watches her tone or covers her bruises,” Daniel said.
She encouraged the crowd to not let sexual violence define them.
About 15 men showed up to march, and one of them, freshman Leo Banks, said the gender disparity showed a wider cultural problem.
“It’s kinda scary that so many more women are here than men,” he said. “There should be more of us.”
Despite all of the support on Saturday, Johnson’s initial tweet wasn’t intended to culminate in a rally.
“As I started getting messages after going public and hearing stories about the IU system, I realized these are not isolated instances,” Johnson said.
Soon she realized her tweet could turn into a movement.
Coughlin, a law and public policy major who handled the logistics of the event, was inspired to get involved because of her interest in grassroots activism.
“We’re trying to act in the best interests of the whole student body because the system has been broken for so long,” Coughlin said.
Abigail Bridgeman, a junior, didn’t even know Johnson before she saw the viral tweet. But as soon as she saw it, she knew she had to get involved and managed the rally’s social media.
“I saw the things she was fighting for and was blown away by her courage,” Bridgeman said. “She lost so much but she’s still fighting.”
After the rally, people from all directions swarmed Johnson with hugs and words of support. Her clothes were damp with sweat.
“I’m exhausted, out of breath and super sweaty,” Johnson said. “But I’m empowered.”
This story has been updated to include a statement from IU spokesman Chuck Carney that was not included in the original version.
A previous version of this story incorrectly quoted a protester's sign that said "So glad my sister doesn't go here." The IDS regrets this error.
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