Take Back The Night Week continued Thursday with the keynote address by Stephanie Gilmore, who spoke on her experience as an advocate against rape culture and a sexual assault survivor, and a march protesting rape culture.
“Instead of being a professor in a classroom, I decided I needed to f— rape culture,” Gilmore said on why she left her career in higher education for activism. “I was bounded by the university’s laws, its need to protect itself, and I couldn’t do that anymore.”
This led to her role as an activist traveling from campus to campus advocating against rape culture. Following her introduction, Gilmore read a piece she wrote titled “My Name is Stephanie Gilmore and I am a slut.” She wrote about how a victim’s attire did not justify sexual assault and how men are also assaulted. She thanked oppressed voices that made the contemporary feminist movement possible and emphasized she was not reclaiming the word “slut” but her own body, sexuality and ability to give consent.
She also opened up to the audience about her own experience with sexual assault, which led to the creation of Artists Against Sexual Violence. The proceeds from the artwork go toward lectures and healing workshops for people who cannot provide their own speaking or travel fees. She compared her group to the Period Project, an organization on Ohio University’s campus that provides free menstrual products to students.
Students nodded their heads in agreement as Gilmore questioned the period tax. She also opened the floor for discussion and statements from the audience. Freshman Jacelyn Fisher announced a new organization, the Survivor Support Group, which was formed in response to the Survivor Advocacy Program crisis at OU.
“There are structures and systems in place that will help you on and off campus,” Gilmore said. “However, we can do better. We must do better.”
Due to the weather, Gilmore’s speech was held in Scripps 111 instead of Scripps Amphitheater, but the planned march still took place. Students and residents of Athens carried an assortment of signs protesting rape culture, sexual assault and the blaming of sexual or domestic assault survivors, beginning and ending at Scripps Amphitheater.
Protesters held signs saying things like “Preheat oven to 360 degrees, burn the patriarchy” and “Yes means yes, no means no.” There were also chants such as “One, two, three, f— the patriarchy,” that drew attention from bystanders on the streets. Sideline Supporters, an organization on campus, ran ahead of the protesters to give enthusiastic encouragement at each block.
“This is an event that allows you to express yourself and meet people with experiences you can probably relate to and find yourself in,” said Balkissa Diallo, a graduate student in the international development studies program.
The march and Gilmore’s speech was part of an annual weeklong event held to “support and empower survivors of rape, sexual assault, power-based personal violence, stalking, and abuse.” The event was organized by Women’s Affairs Commissioner Jessica Arnold.