Editor’s note: This story includes mentions of sexual assault.
A large gathering of students protested the rise of sexual assaults on the Bloomington campus Friday afternoon at Dunn Meadow. They demanded the IU Police Department change its policy of withholding specific locations of sexual assaults on its public crime log.
Students chanted “IU do better! IUPD do better!” and “stand up for survivors, not rapists!” An organizer of student group Hoosiers Against Sexual Assault said 13% of college students nationwide have experienced sexual assault on campus. The organizers said victims at IU can find help at student organization Shatter the Silence and from IU's Confidential Victim Advocates.
The protestors held a moment of silence for victims of sexual assault. When the organizers asked students to raise their hand if they knew someone who had been sexually assaulted, almost everyone did.
Five IU students formed Hoosiers Against Sexual Assault in response to IUPD’s policy, Sam Barber, co-founder of the group, said. They created a petition asking IUPD to end its policy to not name fraternities and residency halls for sexual assault cases, which they said enables a culture of sexual assault. The petition has more than 10,000 signatures as of Friday.
“Our focus is to fix the campus culture surrounding sexual assault and the things that the university and IUPD does to silence victims and continue supporting perpetrators,” Barber said. “The most important thing is that all survivors are included in this, and we recognize everyone’s experience with sexual assault because they are all so different but equally important.”
The students started to plan the protest after seeing an IU NewsNet report about IUPD’s policy while they were eating dinner.
“I was just sitting there thinking about how many other groups of friends are sitting around tables right now talking about this and complaining about how this is unfair and doesn’t make any sense and undermines our safety,” Grace Sarrazin, co-founder of Hoosiers Against Sexual Assault, said. “Then we just collectively started doing something about it.”
Sarrazin said the goal of the protest was to replace what she sees as IU and IUPD’s performative activism with real change to combat sexual assault. She said she believes installing blue light emergency phone boxes and offering free safe rides is not enough to effectively protect students.
“The biggest thing is increasing overall awareness of the situation that is rape culture at IU’s campus,” Sarrazin said. “Students are not entirely educated on the policies that are in place to protect us. It seems like a lot of people at IUPD aren’t even aware of them and they spread miscommunication with the students, which is dangerous.”
The responsibility to prevent sexual assault should be on the assaulters and not on the victims, Sarrazin said.
“We want education garnered towards perpetrators rather than victims on how to avoid being sexually assaulted,” Sarrazin said. “We want to make sure our voices are heard and hopefully incite change on a campus that we all personally do not feel safe on.”
Freshman Sofia Southard said she attended the protest to hold assaulters accountable for their actions. She said her friends’ experiences with sexual assault prompted her to make her voice heard and demand change.
“I have had multiple friends be sexually assaulted, and all the men that have assaulted them have gotten off easily, even when they reported it to the police,” Southard said. “That needs to change."