Approximately 30 University of Portland students lined the sidewalk of Willamette Boulevard with signs supporting survivors of sexual assault at a demonstration at the main entrance of campus March 31. Drivers in cars honked in support as the group captured the attention of many passing by the solidarity protest.
“[Survivors] know that on their campus they have supporters that are not only people who are paid to be supporters or people in administration, but students,” co-president of Students Against Sexual Assault (SASA) Meghan Powers said. “There are other people on their campus that are doing the same daily activities as them that know how they feel when they are supporting them always.”
The gathering was sponsored by SASA, which recently attained club status. This demonstration was not centered around one single event, but was more focused on the prevalence of sexual assault at UP and other universities. The event was a part of SASA's Week of Action, which kicked off sexual assault awareness month.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), nearly one in four undergraduate women were affected by sexual assault and misconduct at 33 major campuses in the country.
“People that go to these events can learn ways about what to say to a friend who was raped or to offer them support and just [educate] people on how to support them,” first-year social work major and SASA general board member Brooke Welter said.
The overall goal of the demonstration was to make survivors of sexual assault and violence feel supported via members of the UP community.
“People are just more aware of SASA being on campus and knowing that there’s resources for them and knowing that survivors will be supported,” Co-President of SASA Kristen Kaliban said. “There’s allies for them all over campus. We really care about them.”
Since becoming a University-sanctioned club, SASA has been able to better connect with students at UP.
“We’re going to be able to have a bigger reach to our student population, which means we’re going to be able to support our community better than we were before,” Powers said.
Michael Lang is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.