About 500 students gathered on College Green for the “It’s on Us, Bobcats” march and rally to call for an end to sexual assault on campus and express their support for sexual assault survivors.
The rally was held in response to the 15 reports of rape and sexual imposition that have been reported to the Ohio University Police Department and Athens Police Department since August 25.
The march began on College Green and continued down Court Street, East State Street and South College Street, where banners still hung on sorority and fraternity houses. As they marched, students joined in various chants, including, “stand up, fight back” and “no justice, no peace.”
When they returned to College Green, the students gathered around the steps in front of Cutler Hall, where they shouted, “Brick by brick, wall by wall, we will make the system fall.”
Seven students gave speeches during the rally about why campus sexual assault culture needs to change and what students need to do to make that change a reality. Some also shared their personal stories.
Cody Shanklin, a senior studying journalism, decided to take action after talking to his friends and roommates about the recent sexual assaults. He was one of three students who organized the rally, and said he was shocked to hear that his female friends were worried about buying tasers and learning self defense.
“I am angry that I have the privilege, as a male, to walk outside safely,” Shanklin said.
As the night continued, other students shared their own stories.
Some talked about being groped on the street. Others spoke of rape in residence halls. The message, however, was the same: students need to be better bystanders.
“I think it’s really important for us to know that it is on us as Bobcats, as students, as members of society to change the culture here at Ohio University and around the world,” Student Senate Vice President Hannah Burke said.
Rather than relying on a systemic change, Burke, who is a member of The Post Publishing Board, said students need to rely on each other.
“It needs to be about consent,” Burke said. “And it needs to be about changing the culture.”
Two women shared their stories as survivors of sexual assault and said that if someone had stepped in, it might not have happened. After sharing their stories, the women emphasized that it needs to be on bystanders to make a change.
Mary Ryznar, a senior studying communications and integrated media, said she started a GroupMe chat, which now has more than 1,000 members, as a resource for women to ask someone to walk them home if they feel unsafe.
“This campus is our home. Our school. Our whole life,” Ryznar said. “And we’re here to take it back.”
OU College Democrats President Bailey Williams, a junior studying economics, called upon men in his speech.
“We need to understand consent way better than we do now,” Williams said.
He said men need to understand verbal consent, boundaries and how they may make women uncomfortable.
“Men need to listen to women more often,” Williams said “They need to realize that they just can’t do whatever they feel like it, they can’t do whatever’s the spur of the moment, they can’t just go and take something.”
Women’s Panhellenic Association President Mallory Golski, a senior studying journalism, said she was inspired by all the students who have been willing to speak out, share their stories and stand with survivors. Golski also helped organize the rally.
“I just wanted to keep this momentum moving forward and keep the focus on the actions students can take as students and not how we can direct our anger toward some higher power,” Golski said. “Whether that’s the university, the police station ... it’s on us as students.”
Johnathen Sweeney, a junior studying strategic communication, attended the protest and held a sign with “I believe you” written on it. He said it’s important to be listening to survivors of sexual assault.
“We need to not give advice,“ Sweeney said. “We need to listen.”
Yasmeen Ebada, a first-year master’s student studying journalism and mass communications, said she thinks everything that has been going on is “ridiculous” and believes all students should come together to try to stop sexual assault.
“I just believe that we have to stand up for what’s been going on,” Ebada said.
In the following weeks, Shanklin, Burke and Golski hope students will use the momentum from the rally to make a difference and end sexual assault culture.
“It’s not what happens in that moment,“ Golski said. “It’s what happens after people go home. After the crowd clears out. (It’s) what people are going to do with that information that they got today to carry forward and actually make a difference.”
Nolan Simmons and Susie Griffin contributed to this report.
Correction: A previous version of this report misstated Yasmeen Ebada’s year in school. Also, her major has been clarified. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.