Student protestors at the University of Connecticut gathered in the Student Union on Friday to silently protest the administration’s alleged handling of sexual assault cases reported on campus.
“I was raped, and UConn silenced me,” read a sign held by Alexandra Docken outside the Rowe Center for Undergraduate Education on Thursday, Feb. 3, sparking conversation around campus and on social media about the university’s alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases.
Grian Wizner, second-semester secretary and treasurer for the Revolution Against Rape, attended the protest to show there is a safe spot on campus for survivors and to acknowledge what it took for Docken to come forward.
“For her to do that outside our school was incredibly brave,” Wizner said in an in-person interview. “What’s mainly going to happen is that UConn might not do anything. It’s about us showing UConn that you may not care, but we care.”
Friday’s protest was the first of many upcoming demonstrations arranged by students and organizations around campus. Two protests outside the Rowe Center are scheduled for noon Monday, Feb. 7 and 11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9. Another protest at the first floor of the UConn Stamford Building scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday, Feb.7.
Seerut Mir, a fourth-semester student, organized Friday’s silent protest to let survivors know she is there for them.
“I am a woman, I am a Husky and I have morals,” Mir said. “I see that another girl is speaking up about something traumatic that has happened to her, and I know that I want to be there for her even though I don’t know her.”
Mir said she wants perpetrators of the violence to be held accountable.
“It’s important to me because the university needs to be held accountable for their actions,” Mir said. “It’s absolutely disgusting that most of the [alleged] perpetrators and rapists have gotten away.”
According to a 2015 article by The Connecticut Mirror, 43 students reported alleged assaults on campus and the university paid five students a total of $1.3M to settle a lawsuit filed against the university’s mishandling of their sexual assault allegations.
Vivian Hudson, a fourth-semester psychology and music major, believes the administration does not take this issue seriously.
“It’s something that definitely gets swept under the rug by the administration here. As they do with a lot of stuff,” Hudson said in an in-person interview.
According to UConn’s Title IX website, the university offers support to victims of sexual assault by providing 24/7 emergency resources, the ability to file a police report and emotional support.
Hudson said if the university continues to do nothing about reports of sexual assault, she hopes people will continue to protest.
“Hopefully, people will keep protesting about it, keep sending emails, keep tagging [UConn] in comments on Instagram and social media. Just don’t let the issue die down,” Hudson said.
Hudson hopes the university will eventually do something, especially with the issue gaining attention.
“It’s up to the student body to keep reminding them about the issue, and I think the more publicity it gets, the more UConn won’t be able to ignore it anymore,” Hudson said.
Charlise Levesque, a fourth-semester student, helped organize Friday’s event despite the upcoming protests.
“This is a very important issue that needs traction,” Levesque said.
The student organization PowerUp is responsible for initiating the various protests and walkouts happening.
According to the PowerUp Instagram account, they are a nonprofit organization “Promoting the advancement of radical love through organizing, education, and community service.”
Denardia Amfo, the director of operations for PowerUp UConn and a sixth-semester human development and family sciences major, spoke about why PowerUp is organizing these movements.
“We want to show solidarity to the community, and we want to enact change,” Amfo said.
Amfo was touched by Docken’s bravery and wants immediate change for Docken and other survivors of sexual violence at UConn.
“There has been a lot of issues concerning sexual assault, including Title IX, and a lot of students on this campus don’t feel protected and don’t feel safe,” Amfo said.
Amfo said there are a few changes she wants the university to make. She wants policy change, direct action from the administration and a safer environment for the student body.
“I want there to be legislation passed that improves the passage of how students are able to report,” Amfo said.
Amfo said people will see booths set up providing resources and information to survivors at the Monday protest and Wednesday walkout. There will also be allies and survivors speaking out against perpetrators of sexual violence.
“We are just providing a place for students to speak on how they feel right now and speak on their own experiences,” Amfo said.
Amfo said she wants students to check up on their friends, show support and report perpetrators.
“Stand by those students who really need you, who really need you to advocate for them or be the voice for them when they can’t be,” Amfo said. “Not everyone can find the courage that Alexandra found just being there and speaking her truth.”
Resources for victims:
National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673 (Available 24 Hours)
Student Health Services (Confidential) 860-486-4700 (24 Hours)
Counseling & Mental Health Services (Confidential) 860-486-4705 (24 Hours)
Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence (Confidential)
888-999-5545 (24 Hours)
Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline (Confidential) 888-774-2900 (24 Hours)
UConn Police 860-486-4800 (24 Hours)