Rutgers is among the latest of institutions across the nation affected by the Senate’s inability to confirm or deny Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the sexual misconduct allegations made against him by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Survivors of sexual assault and harassment along with advocates for spreading awareness about sexual violence gathered in a demonstration called “Rutgers Speaks Out For Survivors” at Brower Commons last night on the College Avenue campus.
Members of Rutgers Students With Children (RSWC), Black Lives Matter Rutgers, Rutgers NO MORE and Rutgers American Association of University Professors-American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT) sponsored the event.
Anjanette Vaidya, founder of RSWC spoke openly about her own experiences with sexual assault.
“I want you to seek justice,” Vaidya said to the crowd. “Does my pain matter? It matters. Does what happened to me matter? It does.”
Survivors and allies were invited to speak about their own thoughts and experiences during the open session of the event. The crowd encouraged those speakers who were hesitant or more emotional about their experiences with positive affirmations about believing their stories and being there for them.
Mark Hopkins, a School of Management and Labor Relations senior, is a survivor of sexual assault. He approached the megaphone confidently and offered his story to the crowd.
“I’m a child of sexual molestation,” he said to The Daily Targum at the demonstration. “Every woman in my family has been sexually assaulted, so this means a lot to me.”
Vaidya said the evening’s rally was an answer to the trauma that survivors of sexual assault have been experiencing in regard to the Ford-Kavanaugh hearings. She also included the struggles some survivors may face at the expense of Rutgers own handling of allegations of harassment, she said to the Targum after the event.
“Tonight was about making room for a public kind of reclaiming of this institution as a place where our voices can actually be heard,” she said.
Vaidya, along with Vlad Carrasco and Chris Phan, both School of Arts and Sciences seniors, is a member of a coalition called Rutgers One. This group includes community members, students, union staff and student organizations who rally around social justice issues that affect surrounding communities, Vaidya said.
Bashir Herbert, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, came to the event to offer his opinion.
“Whether it’s at the workplace or whether it’s on campus, a lot of people don’t know, really know, what to do or how to react when they’re being sexually assaulted,” he said. “They have not just women who support them, but men who support them.”
In addition to students, University faculty also came to the demonstration.
Larry Romsted, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and his wife Jean Romsted, a past University employee, offered their views on the event and society’s atmosphere around sexual misconduct.
“This is an example of oppression and people hurting people, and I’m against it,” Jean said. Her husband added that this issue of oppression has been kept under wraps. He said that women have changed and become much more ready to talk and speak out now than ever before.
“Rutgers Speaks Out For Survivors” is the first event of its kind that the Romsted’s have attended. Although they said they cannot personally speak on the changes within Rutgers over the years in regard to sexual assault awareness, they believe there is more attention in the media that influences people to speak out and become more informed.
“These people are allowing people who have been oppressed to open up and speak, and I think that’s fantastic,” Larry said. “The audience is incredibly supportive and receptive.”