Feminist movement makes change, then those in power take credit
"If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."
--Frederick Douglass, 1849
The Campus National Organization for Women has been fighting for women's liberation on campus for more than 25 years. UF is not truly interested in stopping rape or other crimes against women on campus. Instead, the university focuses on promoting its "safe" image. Men are able to continue committing crimes against women because of the lack of a strong stand by the university. It is the feminist movement that pushed the university to make any changes at all for women.
After the Gainesville murders, the university dismantled nationally recognized feminist rape prevention services to hide the sexism and violence women experienced. If it were up to the university, we would not have a rape victim advocate today. Against intense opposition from the police department and the administration, the feminist movement won back a victim advocate in 1993.
In January, the university hired another victim advocate and dedicated more services for rape victims. This win comes directly after Campus NOW's mass- action campaign calling for the prosecution of crimes against women. Last March, University police arrested a woman for reporting a rape.
We held more than 25 pickets against UPD and State Attorney Rod Smith, culminating in the Justice for Women NOW rally, where more than a dozen women spoke about their experiences reporting rape and stalking and how they were punished, ignored or had to do all the investigating while the men faced little or no repercussions. Due to the enormous pressure from the feminist movement, the university had to give in to some of the demands.
At the start of the campaign, we began a petition drive. Within two months, we gathered more than 3,000 signatures and the support of several campus and community organizations for our demands:
1. Sexual assault, conspiracy and facilitation charges pressed against Mike Yahraus, Anthony Marzullo and Leonardo Yuqque
2. Charges dropped against the woman and that she receive a public apology for the retaliation she received for seeking justice
3. An additional rape victim advocate at UF and more money earmarked for rape victim services.
We got the false report charges against the victim dropped, and UF "reopened" the investigation after persistent pressure from women. This campaign was what got us the additional rape victim advocate and more facilities at the university. This is a great gain for women, as previously only one advocate was responsible for advocating all victims at UF. There will be more full- and part-time staff as well as university resources dedicated for such services.
The university will tell us Campus NOW had nothing to do with this and that the winds of change came along and granted us more rights. But the truth is, a movement made these changes. UF does not just randomly put money into student services. Students have to fight for it. It is not a coincidence that both victim advocates were hired after Campus NOW led huge campaigns for women's rights.
The university's version of how change occurred is consistent with the common lie that those in power just give us things. People struggled for and won the end of slavery, the right to vote, the eight-hour work day and many other changes for people's rights and freedoms. It is not only unbelievable, but ridiculous to claim that the work of thousands won nothing, but the people in power or the work of a few people got us special favors.
People need to know that it is the speak outs, demonstrations, petition drives, editorials, calls of complaint, and the work and support of thousands of people and many organizations that make change so that people who want to work for more freedom know what organizations to join and how to fight. Oppressed people can, and do, battle our problems individually, but we are stronger and push our freedom forward much faster if we unite and organize in radical movements.
It is the feminist movement who will win what women really want. Campus NOW meets the first and third Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. in Turlington Hall, Room 2318. Contact us at 472-4485, or e-mail email@example.com.
The authors, Candi Churchill, Stephanie Seguin, Amy Sowder, Summer Collela, Rhiannon Theurer, Nicole Hardin and Megan Allee are members of Campus NOW.
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