Content warning: This article discusses sexual assault.
About 50 students and university staff and faculty gathered for a “Survivor Speak Out” rally yesterday in front of the Goddard Chapel. The event was sponsored by Action for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) and Tufts Student Action (TSA). Students congregated around the cannon, painted with “We Believe Survivors,” to bring attention to the importance of sexual assault prevention.
The rally comes in the wake of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, a confirmation process which reignited conversations about sexual assault at the national level.
“A big reason [why] I wanted to organize this is because I noticed there was a lot of conversation happening around campus,” Amira Al-Subaey, a member of TSA, said.
Al-Subaey, a senior, believes the dialogue was sparked by Kavanaugh’s recent confirmation.
The rally provided a platform for sexual assault survivors to share their experiences, vent their frustrations and inspire others on campus and in the community to get involved.
“We don’t want the energy people have right now to fall out of public memory because that is what often happens when there is a survivor publicly coming out and everyone is talking about it for one news cycle,” ASAP co-President and event organizer Erin Viola said.
Fellow ASAP co-President and organizer Isabella Spaulding echoed the sentiment, describing the organization’s work as survivor work.
“It isn’t a one-and-done because we have this public Supreme Court mess,” Spaulding said.
Spaulding, a junior, added that the organization plans to continue offering support beyond recent national developments.
Viola, a junior, introduced the event as “a platform for survivors to speak and have their voices heard.”
“We want to center the voices of survivors in the movement to combat sexual violence,” she said.
The event then featured a number of student speakers. Speeches covered topics from sharing personal experiences of sexual assault to criticizing the treatment of victims, including Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and other women who brought accusations against Kavanaugh.
“My trauma is not a punchline. Is that too much to ask for?” one speaker said. “Our voices have power and our actions create change.”
“What I’ve seen in the news this past week confirms what I’ve known throughout my entire life,” another speaker said. “The problem isn’t that nobody believes survivors; it’s that nobody cares.”
The speaker then criticized the university’s handling of past sexual assault allegations and the overall adjudication process, adding that the university does not provide sufficient resources to survivors.
The student speaker called for additional funding and staff for the Center for Awareness, Resources and Education (CARE), an office on campus that works with students, faculty and staff on prevention and awareness with the goal of reducing sexual violence.
These frustrations were not unique.
“Tufts is not an exception to rape culture — it’s a part of it,” another student said.
The speakers emphasized the importance of listening to oft-marginalized and silenced survivors.
In addition to discussing sexual assault, Al-Subaey broadened the discussion to recent violence faced by transgender individuals.
“Let us not forget also that 22 trans people have been murdered this year so far,” Al-Subaey said. “14 of them were black trans women.”
Al-Subaey continued by saying that the individuals most harmed by the violence are often ignored.
The rally ended on a hopeful note, however.
“I dream of a world where survivors like me cannot just survive but thrive,” one student said.