It’s difficult getting a crowd of activists to hush in solemn silence.
But that’s what happened Thursday night as senior Tori Doran recounted the night she was raped.
“My rapist stole my excitement for life,” she said in a choked voice with a megaphone in her shaky hands. “He stole my confidence, my dignity, my light.”
However, Doran said that didn’t keep her from telling her story. Her words came as hundreds of students rallied at Ohio University in solidarity following a string of sexual assault reports on and near campus.
With more than a dozen such reports made to the Ohio University and Athens police departments since the start of the academic year, frustrations and fears among many students are high. Mallory Golski, Hannah Burke and Cody Shanklin channeled those frustrations and took matters into their own hands by organizing “It’s on us, Bobcats,” a student-led rally to promote accountability and help prevent future sexual assault.
The three were inspired by the rise of activism on campus — from the banners condemning sexual assault hanging from Greek life houses to the creation of a private GroupMe chat with over 1,000 members for students to call on other females for a safe walk home, particularly at night.
A crowd of raincoat-clad students and community members gathered on College Green at 7:30 p.m. then took to the bricks of Court Street. They marched in solidarity and chanted phrases such as, “Wherever we are, wherever we go, yes means yes, and no means no.”
Following the march, the students gathered in front of Cutler Hall to hear the testaments of women who have experienced assaults while in college.
One in five undergraduate females will be sexually assaulted at some point during their education. It’s not necessarily that the problem is getting worse, Golski told the crowd, or that OU is any less safe than it was in the past.
“We are emboldening people to report,” she said. “Survivors, we will hear you. We will believe you. And we will not tolerate this any longer.”
The rain held off just long enough for the rally. As soon as the crowd disbanded, drops began to fall. Golski danced with excitement for the success of the rally, embracing her co-organizers, her sorority sisters and even Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones.
“I was assaulted a few weeks ago on campus,” said sophomore attendee Sophie Relitz. “I came because I wanted to hear from survivors. Even though it broke my heart, it felt comforting that someone understands and that so many people care.”
Speakers at the rally encouraged to keep the anger fueling them until the rape culture ends.
“This can’t be where it ends,” said Shanklin, one of the co-organizers, in an address to the crowd. “Be better activists. Be better bystanders. Be better, Bobcats.”