POMONA — A group of about 20 Stockton University students held a rally Thursday evening to let the larger community know they do not want a retreat in the effort to curb campus sexual assaults.
They were taking part in the National Day of Action, organized to oppose U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ scrapping of the Obama-era guidance on how schools should handle sexual assaults under Title IX federal law.
“Devos and (President Donald) Trump have been making campuses safer for rapists,” said Laura Kresslein, vice president of Stockton’s branch of It’s On Us. “Today is about rebuilding strength and honoring survivors.”
Each person who attended the rally received a battery-operated, solid brass candle lamp. They also were given a piece of paper with 13 tips for supporting survivors of campus sexual assault, which included tell them you believe them and telling them it was not their fault.
Survivors should be empowered, but supporters should recognize they may be in a fragile state, Kresslein said.
Laurie Dutton, director of Stockton’s Women’s Gender and Sexuality Center, attended the rally to let students know Stockton will have no rollback.
“Supporting the victim is so important to turn them into survivors,” Dutton said. “We are here for the students and all the victims.”
The rally was as much about how to decrease the chances of sexual assault and how to support survivors as it was about protesting DeVos’ actions.
Dutton brought up the #MeToo movement, started 10 years ago by black activist Tarana Burke.
The #MeToo movement picked up steam this month when allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein surfaced, and actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a call-out to victims “so we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
Dutton said when she was in college, one of her friends was raped at a college party. She said the friend quit school and went to hell and back as a result. Her life fell apart, and she had to be hospitalized and undergo therapy.
“This is a culture that needs to end,” Dutton said. “We are going to end the harassment. We are going to end the rape.”