College students in the United States held socially distant demonstrations this week to protest sexual assault on college campuses.
"BU has a rape problem," signs said across the Boston University campus Monday morning. The organizers said 600 students took part in the protest there.
"Minnesota State University in Mankato has a problem with consent … End the silence. End the violence," said leaflets posted on the campus that also listed resources for sexual assault survivors.
Students on the campus of Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania, woke up on the first day of their face-to-face class to find the message, "After I was raped, I was so scared to just walk around the campus," written in chalk on a path through the center their school.
The protests were organized by the University Survivors Movement, an international coalition of student activists who advocate the problem. They were designed to be COVID safe by focusing on flyers and chalk messages instead of gathering in large crowds. Activists from at least 17 schools had registered to participate before the planned actions.
According to the RAINN advocacy group, more than 1 in 4 female undergraduate students and 1 in 15 male undergraduate students suffer sexual assault or rape through physical violence, inability to work, or violence during their studies. According to RAINN, reporting levels on college campuses are low: only 20% of female college student victims inform police when they are attacked.
“I cried walking around campus because it was full of messages supporting survivors and calling BU. I hadn't felt at home in BU since my attack, but it ended up feeling like I was in Safety as I was surrounded by a body of study I know I really care if my government doesn't, "Prisha Sujin Kumar, a survivor who helped organize the protest at Boston University, told CBS News. She said BU did not reach out to her or any other organizers in response to the demonstration.
Boston University had not yet responded to a request from CBS News for comment at the time this story was published.
Grace Verbrugge, who co-organized the protest at Gettysburg College, told CBS News that it has become more difficult for sexual assault survivors to get help due to the coronavirus pandemic. She said it was unclear whether a student who was attacked while violating quarantine rules could get into trouble if he contacted.
"They just don't communicate that, which will reduce reporting even further," she said.
Gettysburg made a statement to CBS News stating that it "remains committed to providing resources to all of our students during the pandemic" and continues to provide virtual student counseling services on or off campus. The school also said it "maintains an amnesty policy for all reports of sexual misconduct that would protect the reporting party from being held responsible for violating the student's code of conduct, which also includes our current COVID-19 guidelines and expectations. "
But Carter Woodruff, one of the organizers of the University Survivors Movement and a student at Brown University, told CBS News that the pandemic was just another complication, in addition to "so many barriers to survivors, support, justice and safety on campus search".
"During the COVID … sites were able to further prioritize the means of accessibility so necessary to reach survivors in need of help," she said.
"In terms of how quickly universities are allocating resources for COVID or other types of crisis, it's staggering," Kumar said in Boston. "You can care so much about one public health crisis, but you can continue to ignore another? You can't be good at helping students with COVID if you ignore everything else about them. Your mental health, your sexual health." is just as important. "
If you are in the US and need help and it is an emergency, call 911. Otherwise, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE or visit online.rainn.org online.