Students march against sexual assault

by Zachary Benjamin | 8/3/18 2:35am

“Say it loud, say it clear, rapists are not welcome here!”

“No hate, no fear, survivors are welcome here!”

These chants echoed down Webster Avenue Wednesday night as demonstrators marched in solidarity with survivors of sexual violence. Around 80 people participated in the march at its peak, which began at 11 p.m. on the corner of the road outside Sanborn Library, just across the street from the Green.

The march began with statements of thanks toward those in attendance from the organizers, as well as an acknowledgment of survivors and allies who could not attend the march. Following these statements, the group marched up and down Webster Avenue multiple times, chanting in support of survivors of sexual assault and against perpatrators.

Multiple students spoke during the march. One student stressed the necessity of supporting survivors and holding offenders accountable. She said that she was tired of the fact that the fear of being accused of sexual assault has sometimes been taken more seriously than the actual victims of sexual assault, and emphasized that consent is continuously and freely given and can be taken back at any time.

Another student, who helped lead the march, discussed the 2017 Dartmouth sexual misconduct survey, which found that 34.1 percent of undergraduate women had experienced “nonconsensual penetration or sexual touching involving physical force or incapacitation” since coming to Dartmouth. She cited an FBI statistic noting that only around two percent of rape and related sex charges end up being determined to be false, a number comparable to false reporting rates for other crimes.

A third student spoke out about the importance of calling out perpetrators, even if they are members of one’s own social groups.

“You [all] need to be standing up, because it’s really hard standing up by yourself,” she said.

After roughly half an hour, around half of the attendees went home. The remaining members walked past the Massachusetts Row residence halls to Psi Upsilon and Theta Delta Chi fraternities, where they continued to chant that “rapists are not welcome here.” The group then returned to Webster Avenue and continued marching until around midnight, at which point the group disbanded.

Anna Matusewicz ’20, who attended the march, said in an interview after the event that she thought it went well.

“I thought it was really moving, and I think that the people who were in charge put a lot of effort into it,” she said.

Matusewicz commented on the importance of having people show up in large numbers to such events, noting that she believes this is one of the best ways to show genuine support for survivors. She was “pleasantly surprised” by the number of people who showed up, she said, though she added that there could always be more.

Jennifer West ’20, another attendee, said in an interview after the event that she was proud of students for coming together to support each other.

“I think it’s important to remember that with this issue, we all have to hold our spaces and our communities accountable,” she said.

Organizers of the march declined to comment other than to state that the event was arranged independently of any student organization. During the march, one student said that planning for the march began last spring.

In April, around 140 students marched in the College’s annual “Take Back the Night” march, which culminates Sexual Assault Awareness Month’s Week of Action. This number was up significantly from previous years, when only around a dozen people would typically attend.

“I just think people need to talk about [sexual assault] more,” Matusewicz said. “It needs to not be something people are hush-hush about and are uncomfortable about talking about, because it’s important to talk about it and to stand up for survivors and believe them. And believe them.”