Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Students rally, demand rights for sexual assault survivors on campus

By Marie MacCune

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Students gathered and marched for the CERC Day of Action in solidarity with Carrying the Weight to demand that UMass Administration takes real action to end sexual violence and rape culture at UMass (Juliette Sandleitner/Daily Collegian)

Students gathered and marched for the CERC Day of Action in solidarity with Carrying the Weight to demand that UMass Administration takes real action to end sexual violence and rape culture at UMass (Juliette Sandleitner/Daily Collegian)

The University of Massachusetts’ Coalition to End Rape Culture organized a Day of Action Monday, advocating for the implementation of a Survivor’s Bill of Rights to the campus’ sexual assault policy.

Students rallied outside the Student Union in the afternoon and marched to the Whitmore Administration Building to demand a meeting with Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Campus Life Enku Gelaye.

In the evening, students gathered once again in front of Whitmore to hold a candlelight vigil and listen to survivors of sexual assault share their stories.

Liz Mungovan, vice president of CERC, helped organize the event.

“Surprisingly, we were successful,” she said of the march.

According to Mungovan, following the rally, CERC was able to secure a meeting with Gelaye for April to discuss the implementation of a Survivor’s Bill of Rights, overhaul of sexual assault training for residential assistants and New Student Orientation leaders and the creation of a comprehensive database of resources for victims of sexual assault.

Of the database, Mungovan added that she wants survivors to “know exactly what the reporting process looks like and what their options are.”

She said the purpose of Monday’s vigil was to “honor people who have lost lives to sexual and domestic violence.”

Mungovan explained that Monday’s Day of Action was “… actually part of a national campaign with Carry That Weight and USSA to get a Survivor’s Bill of Rights on every college campus.”

“There was going to be a national day of action but Carry That Weight and USSA had to push it back due to scheduling and not all the campuses were ready,” she said. “But we were prepared so we decided to go ahead and hold our own.”

According to Mungovan, UMass’ specific Survivor’s Bill of Rights is still in its drafting stages and will be finalized before the meeting with Gelaye. However, she said it will be “extremely similar” to the bill of rights already in place at the State University of New York.

Some of the rights outlined on SUNY’s website include the right to “make a decision about whether or not to disclose a crime or incident and participate in the conduct or criminal justice process free from outside pressures from college officials,” “be free from any suggestion that the victim/survivor is at fault when these crimes and violations are committed, or should have acted in a different manner to avoid such a crime” and “describe the incident to as few individuals as practicable and not to be required to unnecessarily repeat a description of the incident.”

Mungovan explained, “A lot of our procedures at UMass cause survivors to have to tell their stories a bunch of times to a lot of different people in incredibly explicit detail and that’s really traumatizing.”

She also cited having to go to the hearing and then having to be in the same room as the assailant and consequences that are “minimal to say the least” for assailants as traumatizing, as well.

On a personal level, Mungovan said she got involved because “(she) care(s) a lot about gender-based violence on campus.”

Mungovan said she sees it as problem on both a social and institutional level.

She sees this specific campaign for a Survivor’s Bill of Rights as “a really direct way to reform our policies that are inadequate, inaccessible, and re-traumatizing for the victims.”

Marie MacCune can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @MarieMacCune.

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