UTSA students filled the Sombrilla in protest, calling for a far-reaching and immediate change in sexual assault proceedings and rape culture on campus on Feb. 12. The protest occurred the day after the announcement of the President Eighmy’s Initiative on Preventing Sexual Assault and Misconduct.
The plan builds upon several past initiatives such as Culture of Respect Collective and Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, and “provides a framework for the university’s commitment to advance a zero – tolerance environment for sexual violence and harassment, ensuring a safe place for all Roadrunners to study, work and live.”
The protests included a variety of signs with references to the procedural questions students are asked when bringing forth a sexual assault case as well as popular movement hashtags: Me Too, Change Rape Culture and What Were You Wearing?
Gerald Lewis, UTSA associate vice president of public safety and chief of police, commented on UTSA PD’s protocol when on-campus rallies occur.
“Our goal is to ensure that protests and rallies are conducted in a peaceful manner while allowing students to exercise their First Amendment rights. UTSA PD officers observe campus rallies, provide a visible police presence to encourage a peaceful event and respond as appropriate if safety issues were to occur,” Lewis said.
Spectators passed by as chants regarding the current situation filled the area. “Stop the silence, you incite violence. These are the questions we are asked when we are assaulted because we deserve this behavior. If the police won’t help us then we will help ourselves,” Kimiya Factory, a senior political science major, chanted.
According to Lewis, UTSA’s standard procedure on sexual assault allegations include: reporting an allegation, a detective or police officer would call to discuss the case and collect evidence; being advised of right to file a complaint with EOS and receive counseling and health services from the university; discussing safety plans, crime victim rights and available resources with UTSA PD’s Crime Victim’s Liaison; and forwarding police report to UTSA PD’s Criminal Investigation Section.
Amidst the protests and chants, a particular sign that said, “Rapists shouldn’t have rights” created a heated discussion amongst multiple UTSA students. Gathering around a table, a UTSA freshman said, “My mom was a victim of rape and I understand. I have a lot of people that have gone through that. I understand when people say rapists shouldn’t have rights – I agree personally, but as far as the governments and the constitution, everyone is given basic rights to protect us all.”
The protestors stood under the Sombrilla for an hour and drew support from many students as they walked by. Gabrielle Oliveira, a junior communications major commented, “Every place should have this. Students should feel safe in their own university and campus. I feel really good about this movement and hope they get a lot of attention and create positive change.”