CHICAGO — A group of Loyola students are pushing back against campus sexual assault and asking the Catholic university to give them access to abortion services and birth control.
Those students will join with community members during the Rise Up Fight Back march on Monday. About 300 people are expected to attend the event, said organizer Melissa Haggerty, and participants will rally before marching and then meeting so survivors of sexual assault can speak while allies listen.
Haggerty said members of Students for Reproductive Justice were inspired to host the march after a recent community safety forum, where officials spoke about a rash of sexual assaults in the area around the Lake Shore campus. Haggerty attended the forum and was frustrated when she heard people say gentrification would help reduce sexual assault, among other things, believing that wouldn't truly address the problems faced at Loyola.
She and other organizers want to "hold Loyola accountable" and enact change throughout the campus, she said.
One of the changes they'll call for: Safety alerts emailed to community members suggest people be aware of their surroundings and don't listen to music when walking outside. Those messages enforce a "victim-blaming mentality," Haggerty said.
"How about [saying], 'Don't rape people'? How about that as a warning in the email?" Haggerty said.
Organizers will also call for Loyola to provide students with access to birth control — condoms, pills, Plan B and other options — and abortion services, Haggerty said. Students are only offered contraception if they say they have cramps and aren't sexually active, she said.
"We think that ... this culture of shame contributes to people who are assaulted internalizing that and thinking, 'Oh, it was my fault,'" Haggerty said.
Students should be able to be prescribed an abortion pill, Haggerty said. Ultimately, she hopes the university can provide "anything that a typical clinic could offer."
"Aside from what we want the university to get out of this, we're hoping that sexual assault survivors at Loyola will have a space that they can be truly listened to," Haggerty said. "And I know a lot of students are kind of scared to walk around at night in the community after all these incidents have been reported, and we hope that we can empower people to feel safe again in their own community."
The group has already had some success when pushing for change, Haggerty said: Loyola's Wellness Center website linked to a site that provided inaccurate information about abortion, but the university removed that link after students spoke out against it.
The rally and march starts 3:45 p.m. Monday at the Information Commons, 1032 W. Sheridan Road. The event is open to everyone, Haggerty said.
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