CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article did not include other groups that organized the Believe Survivors Rally. Campus Y and the Workers' Union were co-organizers with the Carolina Feminist Coalition. The article has been updated to include all of the organizers. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.
Feminist advocates and fraternity members gathered Friday, coinciding with University Day, for the Believe Survivors Rally in support of Christine Blasey Ford and all survivors of sexual violence.
Ford, who graduated from UNC in 1988, was recently nominated for a 2019 Distinguished Alumna and Alumnus Award. Last week a full-page crowdfunded advertisement ran in The Daily Tar Heel in support of her.
The Carolina Feminist Coalition, the Campus Y and the Workers' Union organized the rally in response to U.S. Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh.
CFC, an organizing body for campus feminist organizations, kicked off the rally on the steps of South Building at 11 a.m. with several speeches by sexual violence advocates. Citing the low rates of false rape accusations, denouncing fraternity culture’s role in campus sexual violence, and accusing UNC of protecting perpetrators, the speakers all had a uniting message to survivors:
“We all believe (Ford) and support her,” said Hannah Inman, co-chairperson of Feminist Students United, after the rally. “We also want to acknowledge that we still believe Anita Hill, and we still believe the other people who accused Kavanaugh. We believe the people involved in the #MeToo movement — we believe all survivors.”
Behind the speakers from feminist groups stood about 10 counter-protesters from various conservative campus organizations like Turning Point USA, holding signs with phrases such as, “I liked due process, I like due process,” and “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”
The crowd then marched to Fraternity Court, yelling chants like “SAE and fucking DKE, no more silence, we will speak!” Several survivors of sexual assault shared personal testimonies through speeches or spoken word in front of the fraternity houses.
Emily Bullins, co-chairperson of Preventing Violence with Sexual Health, pointed out during her speech that Kavanaugh was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon at Yale University. She then turned to members of Pi Kappa Alpha, who watched from the front porch of their fraternity house, and urged them to join the rally. A small group of men from Pi Kappa Alpha joined the crowd as students shared their personal experiences.
Inman said the purpose of going to Fraternity Court was to encourage fraternity members to listen to survivors and recognize their role in the prominence of sexual assault on college campuses.
“The second point of business at frat court was to call out the systems of oppression that prevent us from reporting — they’re the ones that make us survivors,” she said. “Having fraternity brothers and other people in the community listen to survivors — it only allows them to bring a point of weakness in themselves into a point of power.”
In recent years, UNC fraternities have taken more steps to prevent sexual violence in Greek life, such as bystander intervention programs like One Act and sexual assault awareness programs like It’s On Us.
Aidan Misshula, president of UNC's Pi Kappa Alpha chapter, said he spoke with one of the rally’s organizers ahead of time, so many fraternity members had planned on listening to survivors’ stories. They were not sure whether to join the crowd until Bullins called them down.
“We really appreciated people coming up to share their trauma,” Misshula said. “We’re trying to take as many steps as possible as a house and as a Greek life in general to promote a culture of believing survivors and making sure that sexual assault doesn’t happen on this campus.”
Fraternity brothers weren’t the only men who showed up at the protest. Sophomore Deepak Venkatasubramanian said attending the rally was the least he could do to show support for survivors like Ford.
“I’ve had enough of boys and men making excuses, trying to discredit women who come out, trying to force them to stay quiet,” he said. “As a man, I think I need to be held accountable, to step up.”
As the rally continued, other groups on campus participated in activities for University Day, an annual celebration of UNC laying the cornerstone of Old East 225 years ago.
Inman said CFC held the rally during University Day to highlight UNC’s institutional suppression of sexual assault survivors. Earlier in the year, federal authorities found UNC to be in violation of Title IX by failing to respond to discrimination complaints and having staff who were inadequately trained to implement its own procedures.
Counter-protesters didn’t join the march to Fraternity Court. One of them, sophomore Gabby Derosier, said her stance is not against sexual assault survivors, but it’s against Democrats using Ford’s testimony as a political agenda to thwart Kavanaugh.
“Just because you’re pro-due process doesn’t mean you’re not pro-survivors and taking credence to sexual assault,” Derosier said. “I want sexual assault to be taken seriously, and I don’t want it to be sensationalized on the national stage. I think it was more of a political agenda rather than actually wanting justice for Dr. Ford.”
Junior Angel Boyd was one of those who shared her personal testimony at Fraternity Court. As a Black indigenous woman, she said she wanted to highlight at the rally how women of color often are more likely to experience sexual violence than white women.
Boyd said Kavanaugh’s appointment was another example of how institutions silence those who speak out.
“I wasn’t surprised, but it was very disheartening,” Boyd said. “That’s the culture — these old men clubs. It just goes to shows that survivors aren’t believed still.”
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