Northwestern University Students Tell Of Sexual Assault Experiences During ‘Survivors’ Rally

By Genevieve Bookwalter
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Organizers of the “Stand with Survivors” demonstration at Northwestern University say the rally was to support survivors of sexual assault, condemn recent sexual assault allegations at a Northwestern fraternity and challenge the institutions and environments that facilitate that type of violence.


The hundreds of marchers from Northwestern University were loud and raucous Friday as they rounded Sheridan Road in Evanston, chanting for the removal of a NU fraternity where alleged sexual assaults occurred in January.

But the crowd soon stood silent, and listened with rapt attention as student after student told their stories of being sexually assaulted.

The Stand with Survivors, as the demonstration was officially called, followed the announcement of drugging and sexual assault allegations at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house and another, unidentified fraternity.

The march started at SAE’s Northwestern chapter house and ended about a mile away near its national headquarters.

It was billed as a rally to support survivors of sexual assault, condemn the assault allegations and challenge the institutions and environments that facilitate that type of violence, organizers said.

Some of the speakers, describing their own experiences of sexual assault, said they knew their attackers. Others didn’t.

Some talked about an ex-boyfriend, others a stranger, maybe someone they met earlier at a party, or a mentor at work.

For one it happened as a child. For some it had happened multiple times.

One woman shook as she talked, the paper she read from quivering in her hand. Many on stage and in the audience wiped away tears as they told and heard the stories.

The message, over and over, was that it was not the survivor’s fault a person was assaulted. It was always the perpetrator’s, regardless of what someone was wearing or how much they had to drink or whether they had lost track of their friends that night.

“As a survivor I don’t need someone asking me, ‘are you sure you said ‘no’ loud enough,'” said one woman, who asked not to be identified. “Stop questioning survivors and start questioning rapists.”

Co-organizer Amanda Odasz, a Northwestern senior, said she was motivated to get involved after receiving the campus-wide alert about the alleged SAE attacks.

“This email came out and I was like, ‘how do I call to action?'” Odasz said.

Already a member of Northwestern’s Sexual Health and Peer Educators group, Odasz helped craft the rally agenda, reserved classrooms and other spaces for those who might need to talk about their experiences in private, among other things, she said.

While she is not involved in a fraternity or sorority, about 40 percent of Northwestern’s student population is, Odasz said.

So allegations like those reported Monday, she said, affect many students on campus.

“It is very unlikely that you will go to class at Northwestern and not see someone wearing letters,” Odasz said, referring to the Greek alphabets that serves as acronyms to identify fraternities and sororities.

Northwestern junior Lucy Godinez said in her presentation that hers was one of the sexual assault cases reported on campus in 2015.

“I never thought that I’d stand in front of many people and say I was raped,” Godinez said. “I was raped.”

Godinez spoke out Friday to help protect her sister, she said, who will start Northwestern as a freshman in the fall.

Also on Friday, Northwestern University spokesman Bob Rowley confirmed that the Interfraternity Council, which governs social fraternities, has suspended indefinitely all social activities for all campus fraternities.

And officials at the national headquarters for Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity on Friday confirmed that they had suspended all activity at the fraternity’s Northwestern University campus chapter.

The suspension means that the Illinois Psi-Omega of SAE cannot hold chapter meetings, attend fraternity social events or do any other activities under the SAE banner, said Brandon Weghorst, SAE spokesman. The suspension is expected to stay in place while the reported assaults are under investigation.

“They have to cease and desist all operations,” Weghorst said.

The suspensions and rally came after Northwestern administrators on Monday issued a security alert after receiving reports that as many as four female students were possibly given a date rape drug at a Jan. 21 event at the SAE house, according to Chicago Tribune reports. Two of the women said they were sexually assaulted after receiving the drug.

The university received a second allegation last week of a woman being sexually assaulted after receiving a date rape drug at a different fraternity house, according to Tribune reports.
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That fraternity has not been identified.

Northwestern’s Student Government Association on Wednesday called for the suspension of SAE and any other fraternities involved in the reported assaults.

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