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'Silent Protest' At DU Puts Spotlight On Gender-Based Violence

DENVER (CBS4)- University of Denver students gathered for a silent protest to encourage others to speak out when it comes to sexual assault on campus. Organizers are working with administrators to improve campus protection against gender violence.

Dozens attended a silent protest at DU's Carnegie Green to raise awareness and show support for student survivors.

(credit: CBS)

The Instagram account, WeCanDUBetter, has given students a space to anonymously shares their stories of sexual assault and gender violence while at DU.

"A lot of survivors, as you can see on our Instagram, don't feel heard or protected by the administration. The tape is representative of our silence and solidarity with victims of gender violence on campus," said DU student Caitlin Hickney. "So far the school has proven to us that their loyalty is with perpetrators and not victims."

University denver sexual assault silent protest
(credit: CBS)

Last week, a post was made on the WeCanDUBetter account that included a list of campus changes requested by students.

The Instagram post requests several changes, from providing greater academic support for survivors to creating a zero-tolerance policy for perpetrators found guilty of gender violence.

In a response to the request, the university released a statement telling students:

"You have our promise that not only do we hear you, but we are committed to making progress on each one of your requests to help this campus become a better place. We can do better, and we will."

(credit: CBS)

According to an annual survey conducted by DU, more than half of undergraduate students report knowing or being a victim of sexual assault, dating violence or stalking.

The university responded to each of the requests, explaining how they plan to improve. In some instances, DU says changes are already underway.

Students hope to see a change in campus culture before they graduate.

"Set forth a timeline of when things are going to be accomplished. Not only do we want the commitment to make changes, but the commitment to make them in a timely manner," said Katie Mason, a student at DU.

(credit: CBS)

Several signs at Tuesday's silent protest called for improved security on campus. Students requested that DU invest in trauma-informed training for Campus Safety, faculty, staff and students.

"Members of our committee went to a self-defense course and were told to 'scream really loud' to protect themselves from gender violence," said Hickey.

The university responded, saying they'd commit to upgrading and deepening the trauma-informed training for all campus safety personnel and for faculty, staff and students.

DU admits that recruiting highly-qualified campus safety officers has been a challenge.

"The ability to retain our good CSOs is limited when Denver Police can offer better compensation. We're giving our campus officers a refresher in trauma-informed training for law enforcement," said Enlow.

DU says they've begun working on another safety request from students: more lighting on campus.

"The blue lights on campus are supposed to be hooked up with phones so you can call security, but many don't work. I will crash on a friend's couch rather than walk back to the apartment I paid for because I'm afraid something might happen," said Hickney.

DU's chancellor met with students ahead of the protest to further the discussion.

LINK: University of Denver's letter to We Can DU Better

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