Last night, more than 30 community members gathered at The Salon in downtown Providence to take a stance against rape culture. They signed letters, asking California’s Commission on Judicial Performance to unseat Judge Aaron Persky — the judge who presided over the controversial Stanford University rape case last month. The event also aimed to educate Rhode Islanders about rape culture and consent.
Providence locals Hanna Furey and Brittany Taylor decided to hold the event after Taylor attended a similar gathering in New York, organized by the feminist society GRLCVLT, in which she is a member.
“We wanted to have it in Rhode Island because we want to make sure it’s not a big city thing, it’s not a small town thing — this happens absolutely everywhere to everyone,” Taylor said. “We all know someone who has been sexually harassed in some fashion. [There are] too many women to count.”
Speakers ranged from people who have experienced sexual violence to Kira Manser, executive director of the Center of Sexual Pleasure and Health, and Vanessa Volz, executive director of the domestic violence agency Sojourner House.
“There’s a lot of shame around sexual assault and violence and I certainly encourage community responses to raise awareness,” Volz said.
Stanford law professor Michele Dauber is leading the main effort to get a vote on the November 2017 state ballot that would recall Judge Persky. For this to be possible, 80,000 signatures from Santa Clara County voters need to be collected. So the goal of last night’s event was to have as many participants as possible sign letters of complaint to the Commission as a way to show support for Dauber’s recall effort.
Providence resident Jenn Steinfeld spoke at the event about her experiences of sexual violence. She said the Stanford case affects more than just the people directly involved.
“I really felt very paralyzed after hearing this verdict,” Steinfeld said. “I’m glad to be here with like-minded people and to be to taking some action to push back against rape culture.”
The Stanford rape case went viral June 3, after Buzzfeed published a letter that the unnamed woman affected read in court to her assailant, Brock Turner. He was sentenced to six months in jail, but will most likely only serve three.
Married couple Loren Intolubbe-Chmil and John Chmil attended the event together. As parents of three sons and a daughter, they say it’s important to attend events like this for their children.
“With all of them, it’s important for every single one of our children to know everyone should be treated with dignity,” Intolubbe-Chmil said.