Red Whistle Brigade holds public demonstration for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Samantha Ye

four students holding canvas banner
Vada Smith, Lilly Geer, Whitney Gustafson and Larson Ross hold a banner inside of the Lory Student Center food court on April 25 to protest sexual assault on college campuses. The Women and Gender Advocacy Center at CSU held the silent protest for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (Colin Shepherd | Collegian)

Over a dozen students marched through the Lory Student Center Wednesday, chanting for an end to sexual assault and victim blaming.

The protest was meant to create a necessary disturbance to draw attention to the issue of sexual assault, as well as show solidarity with survivors, said Whitney Gustafson, co-organizer of the protest and member of the Red Whistle Brigade.

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Four RWB members and nine other students participated in the event.

The students started the demonstration in the LSC food court where they unfurled four different banners decrying rape and rape culture on campus.

At the blow of a whistle, they shouted out the messages of the banners: “We deserve a rape-free campus,” “Blame rapists, not victims,” “Sexual assault should not be part of the college experience” and “The only person who causes rape is a rapist.”

When they finished, those in the food court applauded them.

Students then took the protest outside to the Plaza where they repeated their message. After several minutes of silence, they then made a loop through and around the LSC, all while chanting the banner phrases, until they made their way back outside to the Plaza for a final chant.

The protest was a closing event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

It was promoted as a silent protest so students would not feel pressured to speak or be confrontational if they did not want to, Gustafson said — but a majority of the protest was spent chanting the messages to which all participants lent their voice.

Gustafson and fellow co-organizer Hannah Manning said they were extremely grateful for those who did show up and hope for more participation in the future.

Overall, they considered their message and delivery to be effective.

“It was a powerful chance for our community to come together and stand up against (sexual violence)” said Bailey Schmidt, RWB member.

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Manning said this was a project she and Gustafson had wanted to do for a while now, and she found the results generally positive.

“I thought it was powerful that everyone got silent (in the LSC food court) and listened to us, because often survivors aren’t really listened to,” Manning said.

Gustafson said she did notice some dismissive comments from onlookers about how people are already obviously against rape.

“When it comes to victim blaming and to supporting survivors and to getting justice, there’s a lot of things inhibiting those factors, so we want to recognize those as well,” Gustafson said. “It’s really easy to say you’re against rape–that’s a pretty non-confrontational statement. But, are you doing what survivors need to help them heal, and are you advocating for justice too?”

Gustafson said the RWB wanted to bring the issue of sexual violence into the lives of those who may not have to think about it.

Such student-led disruptions are particularly powerful for making people recognize rape and rape culture, said Larson Ross, a senior political science major who participated in the protest.

“(It) shows that people in the community are willing to step up, and it’s not just authority figures…or an institution, but rather people in the community…who care about each other, and they’re going to hold you accountable themselves,” Ross said. “(The) University is not going to reach into your life in a meaningful way and make you think about rape culture and violence, but doing something like this (protest) directly will.”

Collegian reporter Samantha Ye can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @samxye4.