Students hold vigil to demand victim justice

Participants gather during the candle light vigil held on the Allbritton House's lawn Febuary 8, 2016

At 9:30 p.m. inside the gates of the Albritton House, a large number of people gathered for a candlelight vigil in in an effort to support those in the Baylor community who have been victims of sexual violence.

Those present stood in a ring with candles in hand and listened to statements by the organizer of the vigil, Stephanie Mundhenk, recent Baylor graduate. Sexual assault survivors and their sympathisers were invited by Mundhenk to attend the vigil.

“We hope to show in a visible way just how much rape affects us, those we hold dear, and our community in a peaceful effort to incite change,” read a handout distributed at the event.

Mundhenk, the main organizer of the event, said she has gone through the process of reporting sexual assault to Baylor’s Title IX office. She said she hoped to communicate how large of a problem sexual assault is at Baylor.

A chorus of “This Little Light of Mine” began shortly after Mundhenk spoke to the crowd.

The group was then invited to service at Powell Chapel.

“Please keep the same quiet, reverent attitude as you walk,” Mundhenk said.

A printed mission statement of the service was given to those present by volunteers and read: “Because we love Baylor, we hope to show in a visible way, just how much sexual assault affects us, those we hold dear, and our community to peacefully incite change.”

According to the handout, the event’s organizers feel Baylor has mishandled sexual assault cases and failed to offer proper protection to victims with its Title XI policies. The handout mentioned president and chancellor Ken Starr’s multiple efforts to address the issues regarding sexual assault on campus, but regarded them as ineffective.

“Baylor University’s Administration repeatedly promises justice to students raped at Baylor and fails to provide it. Ken Starr repeatedly issues emailed platitudes while students still suffer,” the handout said.

Lizzie Davis, dual master student in divinity and social work, was a volunteer at the vigil.

“I think [the vigil] says that we as Baylor community hold sexual assault and rape to be important not just in word but in action,” Davis said.

The service in Powell Chapel began with a series of prayers.

“May sexual abuse survivors become a sign of your glory,” a prayer said.

Following the prayers, a victim of sexual assault came forward and told an abridged version of her rape. The victim had kept the abuse silent for a year and nine months before coming forward.

“We are not here to investigate, or prove the innocence of either me or my assaulter. We are here to support survivors of sexual assault and to ask for better from our beloved university and from our culture as a whole,” the victim said.

Those who support the need for change are also able to read and sign an open letter on responses to sexual assault at Baylor. The letter currently is signed by 1,461 students, faculty, alumni, and community members.

Natalie Webb, an alumni of Baylor, is a signee of the letter.

“I think it is something that the whole Baylor community is concerned about and the letter draws attention to that,” Webb said. “I trust that Baylor has the best intentions for moving forward on this issue.”