Members of the University of Richmond campus community gathered in protest of gender violence in the Forum on April 12.
The demonstration was led by students in Latin American, Latino, and Iberian Studies 475: “Writing Sex and Gender in Latin America,” donned in black clothing with red bandanas. A line of 10 students stood in the middle of the bottom half of the Forum.
The class focused on decolonial feminist activisms in the Americas and, in that context, it bridged the local and the global by focusing on transnational feminist activism, wrote Mariela Méndez, LAIS and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies professor, in an email to The Collegian. Looking both at decolonial feminist activism in Latin America right now and on campus over the past few years provided the foundation for the intervention on Tuesday, she said.
Those joining the protest were encouraged to crouch with the 10 students and mirror their movements. Junior Sofie Martinez then began reading statistics regarding sexual violence on campus.
“College women between the ages of 18 and 24 are three times more likely at risk to be the victim of sexual assault,” Martinez read.
Three of the 10 students stood. Those crouching behind them stood as well. In total, 30% of the students in the demonstration stood, illustrating the brevity of the statistic. Professor of dance Alicia Diaz drummed out a beat on an instrument in the lull between each statistic.
Martinez also mentioned an email sent out by Steve Bisese, vice president of student development, on Oct. 27, referring to fall as the “Red Zone” on college campuses for sexual violence.
“We’re more than just a statistic,” Martinez said. “Are we not?”
The crowd cheered.
Students in LAIS 475 learn about protests in Latin America, specifically on the subject of feminism, and how activism works in the region, senior Gabriela Lopez Gutierrez said after the demonstration.
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“We're used to seeing records and getting emails and getting the timely warnings,” she said. “We were like, ‘We want to be present with them, and this is why we wanted to embody the statistics.’”
The class also organized the UR Complicit Instagram, “a collective of students who aim to speak out against gender violence,” according to the account. There were also steps to participate in the demonstration.
Among undergraduate students, almost 30% of females and almost 10% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation, according to a handout from the demonstration.
Martinez also referenced the 2015 Campus Attitudes on Sexual Assault survey, wherein seven out of 10 respondents indicated they had an unwanted sexual experience at UR.
“University of Richmond, this is not a season,” Martinez said, “this is a culture.”
The statistics will be able to drive the point more forcefully, Mendez said. You don't get to find clear figures or data around sexual assault at UR, she said.
“My hope would be that people realize, one, how many bodies it impacts, and, two, how little we know about it,” Mendez said.
Martinez continued to read a couple more figures to those in attendance. By the end, close to 100 people had come to show their support for the protest.
“You can keep reading about this [sexual violence] online, like in articles and newspapers, but participating [in demonstrations] is a different feeling and it opens up your mind and brings you one step closer to this topic,” Lopez Gutierrez said.
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