‘This is a problem’: Sexual assault survivor walkout draws hundreds at UVM

Vermont News

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WFFF) — A sea of students stood in solidarity for survivors of sexual violence Monday outside UVM’s Waterman Building.

Hundreds, clad in denim, banded together to address sexual misconduct on campus and demand more from administrators as part of the Survivor Solidarity Walkout. Demands include better prevention training and a clearer, more supportive reporting process for students and survivors.

Following the march, Catamounts heard testimony from peers, including Athena Hendrick who was assaulted in February 2020. A week ago, Hendrick came forward on Instagram Already. Her post, which has received more than 3,000 “likes,” gave a month-by-month timeline of her experience with UVM’s Title IX.

“February 3rd, 2020: I muster the courage to schedule a doctor’s appointment,” Hendrick writes. “August: ‘Not enough evidence found’ investigation closed.” Now, she comes forward and inspires others to do the same. 

“I also am a survivor,” aid UVM senior Christa Guzman. “I think a lot of people still don’t know what consent really is and the levels of it. There’s this one video we see on consent. It’s like two minutes long and they talk about serving someone tea as a term of having sex with someone. And it’s just not enough.”

Another student says Monday’s turn out sent a message. “It shows how big of an issue this is to the student body,” said UVM sophomore Aidan Fleming. “This is a problem, we all think it’s a problem and you should too.”

Erica Caloiero, UVM’s Interim Vice Provost of Student Affairs, says the school is quickly responding to students’ demands. “There’s a big focus on training and sexual violence prevention, which I think is critically important,” she said. “Students are asking that staffing and resources be visible.”

Caloiero says staff are also reevaluating the reporting process. “The entire process that students may experience, we’re going to look at it in its entirety and ensure that it’s clear and it’s apparent to students how they can engage in this in the ways that they choose,” she said.

At the rally, students took a moment of silence for survivors and occasionally applauded Athena’s bravery. Lt. Governor Molly Gray also voiced her support on Twitter saying quote: “I see you, and I believe you. Your stories and experiences matter and you deserve to be heard, supported, and protected.”

Fleming says confronting sexual violence on campus is an attempt to improve the lives and campus community of both current and incoming UVM students.

“It shows how much that we really care about the future of the student body, even though we only have one week left of classes and two weeks of finals before we all head home. It’s really telling of the dedication of the student body to these issues that affect us directly,” said Fleming.

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