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University Survivors Movement Protests Brown’s Handling of Sexual Violence

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A group of student activists organized a socially-distanced protest at Brown University on Monday criticizing what they contend is the university’s “uncaring” approach to sexual violence issues on campus.

Student activists from the University Survivors Movement, an international coalition fighting sexual violence on college campuses, taped up posters in prominent locations all over campus denouncing university leadership’s lack of response to the issue of rape and sexual harassment on campus.

Some of the posters read, “Brown University has a sexual violence problem. And our administration doesn’t care.” Other posters included resources for survivors of sexual violence.

The protest movement at Brown coincides with similar initiatives at campuses across the country including Arizona State University, Boston University, and the University of Notre Dame.

‘I Just Wanted the Harm That Was Done to Be Acknowledged’ 

Coalition organizers Carter Woodruff and Amelia Wyckoff believe survivors are “a nationally-formidable force.” There is also a university Instagram account “Voices of Brown” where last year over a hundred survivors shared personal narratives of sexual assault.

The “Voices of Brown” page was founded in June last year by Brown student Arianna Ferretti. The page offers insight into survivors’ experiences living under the persistent fear that they won’t be heard or believed.

Prompted by the Black Lives Matter protests on social media, Ferretti wanted to establish a safe haven where survivors could share their stories anonymously.

Ferretti, a sexual assault survivor herself, never formally reported her assault. “I wasn’t looking for any disciplinary action,” she told The Brown Daily Herald. “I just wanted the harm that was done to be acknowledged.”

‘Meaningful Change’

Despite severe allegations against university leadership, Brown spokesperson Brian Clark insisted that the university wants to make “meaningful change” and has taken “aggressive” steps to combat sexual violence on campus since 2014. “We remain resolute in our commitment to preventing and responding to incidents,” Clark added. 

Brown, like many other colleges and universities, has kickstarted programs to better handle sexual violence on campus. However, activists from the University Survivors movement are still not convinced about the university’s efforts.

Woodruff believes the university’s actions are “inadequate.” They are merely “checking off boxes” because none of the school’s policies are producing real change, she said.

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