On Monday, Baylor University students held a candlelight vigil and a prayer in support of victims of sexual assault at the University.
More than 100 people attended the peaceful ceremony, which aimed to stand in solidarity with those affected by sexual assault and to incite change at the university.
The group that organized the event said Baylor University has failed to fulfill the promise of justice to victims of sexual violence on campus.
Every light at the vigil represented a survivor or someone else affected by what they referred to as “breach of justice.”
According to organizer Stefanie Mundhenk, who graduated from Baylor in August, said she reported her sexual assault case to Baylor last year but didn’t feel the process was just.
Mundhenk said students at the event wanted to let the university know it has not solved the problems associated with addressing sexual assault reports.
"A lot of survivors feel as though they're not being heard, they're not being seen. They don't really feel like they have a voice here at Baylor. They feel really swept under the rug by Baylor Title IX so this event is to give survivors a voice in that way,” said Mudhenk.
Baylor graduate Maggie Holland who assisted with organizing the event said this event was not meant to be disrespectful to Baylor but to hold the university to higher standards.
She said she would like to see more accountability, victim support and frequent consent training for students at Baylor.
"We want to see them go above and beyond into the future. We're supposed to be a Baylor family and family is not about leaving people behind,” said Holland. “It's not about leaving them without justice. It's about making them feel safe on campus."
On Tuesday Judge Starr released this statement about the vigil held in front of his house:
“Last evening, our students came together as a family. They displayed great poise and maturity during the vigil at Allbritton House and in the prayer service that followed at our beloved Truett Seminary," said Starr in a statement. "We hear your voices loud and clear. You want us to continue to improve. And you want definitive, responsible actions after we receive the insights and recommendations from Pepper Hamilton. You have my word on both."
After the vigil, the attendees went to the George W. Truett Theological Seminary for a prayer service.
A Baylor Senior, who asked to be identified as Pam, told the crowd she had just reported her 2014 sexual assault case to the Title IX office.
Pam said she waited to report it out of fear.
“I was afraid with our past treatment of assault victims,” said Pam. “I was scared no one would believe me.”
She finished her emotional speech by asking Baylor to look into her case.
“I am here to beg Baylor, please don’t let my case fall through the cracks. Please don’t ignore the victims. Please don’t let anyone else feel afraid and alone at this school. Please let us know how you as a Christian university are going to lead the way through this cultural epidemic of assault,” said Pam.
Baylor has taken steps to address sexual assault, including hiring a coordinator in 2014 who works at the Title IX office, which handles sexual assault reports.
According to the university, it has also enhanced prevention and education efforts for students and staff. In addition, the school commissioned an independent investigation of how the university handled previously reported sexual assaults.
On Monday, Baylor released the following statement regarding the vigil.
“Staff in the Division of Student Life at Baylor have worked actively with Baylor students to support tonight’s vigil. The University respects the decision of our students to gather in community to share their concerns and to support those who have been impacted personally by the devastating effects of sexual violence. It is important that they feel the freedom to gather and to shine a light on what Baylor intends to continue to do to address this issue at our University."
“We are committed to continuing our deep focus upon and active work in this area. Judge Starr sent a letter to Baylor Nation [on Sunday]. In it he noted that at the conclusion of the independent, external review by Pepper Hamilton, we will inform Baylor Nation of both short- and long-term actions to be taken based on their recommendations,” said Baylor in a statement. “We are grateful for the ongoing work of our Title IX Office and the “It’s on Us BU” Student Organization, which are working actively to address and to eliminate interpersonal violence on our campus. Staff from a variety of areas, such as Title IX, the Counseling Center, Spiritual Life and the Administration, will join our students in the vigil tonight and will provide resources and support as needed.”
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