Sit-in against sexual assault on campus to take place in the Forum today
‘So many horrible things have happened to women here, and not many people know about it’
TW: This article contains discussion of sexual assault
Today from 2-5pm there will be a sit-in outside the Forum, protesting against sexual assault and harassment, particularly on campus.
The sit-in is organised by Sit Down N Shut Up, a group created by Exeter University students. It will see the group discussing these issues, and sharing survivors’ experiences.
The team are encouraging attendees to wear white, to write quotes and slogans on their T-shirts, or to write slogans on signs they can bring along with them. For those who can’t attend, the event will be being streamed live.
Their Instagram account @sitdownnshutup_ has helped bring awareness to sexual harassment through encouraging anonymous testimonies from Exeter students, which they post on their Instagram story. The Instagram account has gained almost 1,200 followers in the last week, and the team are understandably taken back at how quickly their movement has spread and resonated with students.
The Exeter Tab spoke to Yasmin, Alice and Jaime, the organisers and founders of Sit Down N Shut Up.
“We’re going to make a few speeches, and in the second half of the event we’re going to hand the megaphones over to a few other people who want to make a speech. Obviously this is just a select few people because we don’t want anyone with ulterior motives to come up and derail the event”, Jaime explains.
The sit-in comes at a time where discussions around women’s safety are making national news, following the killing of Sarah Everard. The team emphasise that, whilst this has been a trigger cause for their movement, they are putting the experiences of women on campus at the heart of their message. Alice says: “On campus, the whole of this year since September there have been so many assaults, so many horrible things that have happened to women here, and not many people know about it, or if they do know about it it’s suppressed and we don’t talk about it.
“Because the Sarah Everard case was gaining so much popularity on social media, we just thought, this is the perfect time to use this, all this anger, where is it going to go?”
Yasmin says: “I didn’t want this to be just another thing where this was just performative activism, where people just post a bunch of stuff”.
Last week, Exeter University said it was “liaising with police”, following two sexual assaults on campus earlier this month. Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed three men have been arrested in connection with these incidents.
The women emphasise that they have worked hard to ensure the smooth-running of the protest. “We’re quite lucky in that the Guild say that they agree with what we’re doing, and so Estate Patrol won’t actively try and be against us”, Alice says.
The team have also made plans to keep the protest as Covid-safe as possible. Yasmin says: “We have had to reiterate over and over again, everyone needs to wear masks and everyone needs to remain seated”. As well as for the safety of the attendees and the wider community, the women want social distancing measures to be obeyed so as not to distract from the message of the protest.
Yasmin continues: “Our message is about fighting against sexual assault on campus and violence against women, and if the press get hold of photos of people crowding up, that’s going to screw up everything we’ve created. If people turn up and they’re passionate about what we’re doing then they should be able to social distance”.
Taking about their Instagram page, Yasmin says “We didn’t realise how big it would get”. Another organiser, Alice, continues by saying “it’s great that it’s gaining traction, but I don’t think any of us really thought that this would happen”, while third organiser Jaime says the outpouring of public support for their movement, is “overwhelming but empowering at the same time”.
The team have encouraged anyone who needs help or a chat to DM them on Instagram.
Images via Elena Vardon and Lizzie Rose.
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