Students, legislators and campus organizations gathered outside of the Rowe building on Monday to show their support for Alexandra Docken and other victims of sexual assault.
Student-run organizations UConn UNCHAIN and Revolution Against Rape facilitated Monday’s protest with support from other campus organizations like PowerUp and UConn Collaborative Organize.
Nell Srinath, fourth-semester political science and journalism major and UNCHAIN president, spoke over the phone on behalf of the organization and facilitated Monday’s protest. They said the goal of the protest was to show support for victims of sexual violence and provide an outlet for those who were brave enough to recount their stories.
“The goal of today’s protest was to send a message to UConn’s administration,” Srinath said. “For years on end our concern about assault and sexual violence on campus have routinely been met with performative emails.”
Srinath said UNCHAIN is disappointed with Sunday night’s email sent by UConn Interim President Radenka Maric which intended to address the conversations on campus but left students upset.
“We think it was performative. We understand the interim president may have been speaking from the bottom of her heart and that’s all well and good,” Srinath said. “After a number of protests have already occurred, it shows that they are completely out of touch.”
UNCHAIN wanted to remind people that this is a systemic problem affecting cis white women, women of color, trans people and other underrepresented populations.
“People talk about rape and sexual assault and violence in general as the face of a cisgender white woman and we just want to clarify that although cis white women are definitely affected by sexual violence, so are women of color, so are queer people, so are trans people and so are people with disabilities,” Srinath said.
At the protest, Mae Flexer, a member of the Connecticut State Senate representing the 29th district, attended with colleague Gregory Haddad who serves the Connecticut House of Representatives 54th district. Flexer and Haddad said they have been championing legislation for victims of sexual violence for a decade.
Some of the legislation passed by representative Haddad requires all Connecticut universities to establish affirmative consent. According to the Connecticut House Democrats website affirmative consent requires, “Active, clear and voluntary agreement by a person to engage in sexual activity with another person.”
“We have been working on this issue for a decade and we have some of the strongest sexual assault statutes governing conduct by universities,” Haddad said during an interview at the protest. “Clearly, we’re still falling short of the promise that’s held out in our state statutes because of the conduct of individuals who fail to take each and every allegation seriously.”
Haddad said he and Flexer both have daughters at home. He wants his daughter and others to grow up in a world free of sexual violence.
“When we hear about people who not only experience sexual violence but (UConn) has not taken those allegations seriously, to me its a tragedy, and it breaks my heart, and that’s what brings Mae and I here every year,” Haddad said.
Flexer said she is tired of hearing about UConn students being victims of violence on campus and is upset with the university for not looking into all of the reports filed by students.
“I am so proud of these students for standing up and standing together, but I’m so frustrated,” Flexer said during an interview at the protest. “Haddad and I have been working on these issues for the better part of a decade, passing some of the strongest laws in the country.”
Ben Viselli is a fourth-semester student who transferred to UConn this semester. Viselli was among the students protesting against the universities treatment of sexual assault survivors. During at interview at the protest Viselli said he is “angry” because he just paid the university thousands of dollars to do nothing for victims of sexual violence.
“Seeing that [photo of Docken] reminded me of all the problems that this school has not addressed, and as someone who is new here, that makes me really angry,” Viselli said. “I just gave them thousands of dollars. I just made a huge life decision to go here, and they can’t even do the bare minimum of protecting other students.”
Along with the crowd of protestors chanting “do better” and “protect our pack,” movement organizers shared anonymous stories for student survivors.
If students felt comfortable, protest organizers created a safe space for students to share their own stories.
Students who shared their stories expressed feeling unsafe on campus because their perpetrators walk free as a result of the university failing to take their claims seriously.
“We stand with you, we believe you. UConn, protect your students, UConn do better,” chanted protestors.
Resources for victims:
National Sexual Assult 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)