Photo Caption: Students Bekki Wyss, Jessica Lindner and Madison Koenig hold a banner during a rape culture protest on the steps of the Athens courthouse Friday, Nov. 1. One theme of the rally was to "blame the system, not the victim."
Several dozen people assembled on the steps of the Athens County Courthouse Friday afternoon, shouting chants such as "Blame the system, not the victim!" toward Court Street. Some passersby honked their car horns and shouted encouragement or stood at a distance to watch.
This was the second rally organized by the new OU student organization f**krapeculture, which is a "social movement to challenge, undermine and eradicate rape culture at OU," according to its Facebook page. The previous rally was a march uptown on Oct. 11 of roughly 200 people, which controversially included several topless women.
The initial rally came a day before the uptown public sex act with two OU students where the female later accused the male of committing sexual assault during the incident. That incident, widely circulated via social media, gained media attention from as far away as London, England, and also generated renewed discussion about rape culture in this community.
F**krapeculture lists as its objectives three demands of Ohio University: sexual harassment training for student workers, consent education for incoming freshmen, and a promise that sexual assault victims will not be prosecuted for underage drinking if they were drinking at the time of assault.
Allie Erwin, co-founder of the group, began the rally by explaining that the OU administration has not followed through on its promises to fulfill these demands, citing a meeting between officials and f**krapeculture earlier in the week.
"We asked for sexual harassment training for student workers," Erwin said. "We were told that the university needs time to research programs, and would Claire (Chadwick, co-founder) and I do the research for them, despite the fact that they implemented sexual harassment training for faculty and staff six months ago."
She listed several more examples and concluded, "These (responses) are indicative of how much officials value our safety. Until we see real action from them, our 'embarrassing activism' isn't going to stop."
OU Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi responded to some of the criticisms in an email Sunday morning, noting that the university has taken some concrete actions toward addressing the concerns of f**krapeculture student group, and has been communicating those steps to Erwin and Chadwick.
At the rally Friday afternoon, after the initial listing of grievances and some call-and-response chanting, the megaphone was passed to anyone in the crowd who wished to share her experience with rape culture at OU.
Emily Harper recalled being at a bar and being touched inappropriately by men who passed by. "One guy just straight up cupped my breasts," she shouted. "That is unacceptable. I do not want that kind of attention from you. I don't know about you, but when I say don't f**ing touch me, it means don't f**ing touch me! There's a thing called personal space that needs to be respected regardless of your gender."
Megan Marzec, a junior studying art, explained how she fears and expects to be raped when walking at night. "That is rape culture, the fact that I fear walking down the streets!" she said. "So many people have denied that fear publically, on the Internet, in my classrooms, my superiors have denied that. They've denied that!"
Bekki Wyss, a junior studying English, condemned the attitude she has observed among faculty that sensitivity toward rape culture is a feminist issue or delegated to the women's and gender studies department. "It is unacceptable to say that because I don't work in a certain department, it is not my job to care about my students, it is not my job to be sensitive to a trauma that will happen to one in four women on this campus, one in 10 men on this campus while they are here at OU," she said. "Unacceptable!"
Chadwick concluded the rally after 10 minutes of stories with a summary of f**krapeculture's approach to rape culture on campus. "Until people realize that what they're doing is wrong and that it needs to be changed and we won't stand for it anymore, nothing will change," she said.
While Friday's rally took place on the courthouse steps, just across the street from the Chase Bank wall where the public sex incident occurred Oct. 12, organizers said the location wasn't chosen for its proximity to the bank, but rather as a result of being located on a public, free space on a street where sexual or gender harassment often occurs.
IN AN EMAIL SUNDAY MORNING, OU Vice President of Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi, responded to criticisms made during Friday's rally, noting that he, Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones and President Roderick McDavis met with Erwin and Chadwick, from f**krapeculture, on Oct. 28 and had "a very productive meeting." At this meeting, he said, the student group presented some suggestions about how to improve the climate on campus with regard to sexual violence and violence against women.
With regard to the specific recommendations, Lombardi first addressed sexual harassment training. "I informed Allie (Erwin) and Claire (Chadwick) that in fact we have begun work on this, and that a very large group of staff will meet on Monday (Nov. 4) to begin developing this. I said that it would likely mirror the program we have for full-time faculty/staff and that a realistic timeline for implementation was fall 2014. Both Allie and Claire stated they felt this was a reasonable approach."
On the subject of "peer consent education" in dorms, Lombardi said he and the other OU officials told the f**rapeculture leaders that they will discuss this issue with various staff members who oversee residence halls and Bobcat Student Orientation. Lombardi said he has spoken with the director of residential housing, "and he is working on getting something in place for the training process that takes place with new RAs in the spring/summer so that it would be fully implemented in the fall semester."
He said he also suggested to Erwin and Chadwick that they speak with David Descutner, who oversees the University College curriculum and courses, and would have final approval over any new course content. They indicated they had a scheduled meeting with him in the near term."
In general, Lombardi said the meeting with Erwin and Chadwick was pleasant and productive. "I was surprised to hear of some of the comments made at the rally but I understand that part of their efforts are to energize students around this issue," he said. "We were receptive to their ideas, and they were receptive to our thoughts about how to move forward."
Finally, with regard to Erwin's comment about "embarrassing activism" during Friday's rally, Lombardi noted, "None of us are embarrassed by activism, and it has been a hallmark of our campus for many years. It is one of the components that both Jenny and I appreciate about our students, and we would never try to do anything simply to end this. We work hard to make changes that are positive for the campus culture because they are the right thing to do."
Also on Sunday, Dean of Students Hall-Jones responded to the student group's concerns pertaining to alcohol violations and sexual assault complaints. "We have always included amnesty as a part of our sexual misconduct process," she said. "If someone reports an assault and happened to be underage drinking at the time of the incident, we would focus on the sexual misconduct only. This has been a standard part of our process, as we would never want someone not to come forward for fear of getting in trouble with the university for underage drinking."