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I feel honored to have spoken out alongside so many brave survivors from our community today.  I have transcribed my statement below in hopes that it will help empower other people to speak up about their experiences with violence.

My name is Sarah-Kathryn Bryan, and I am in my second year at the University.

First, I’d like to thank everyone who has come to support the UNC-Chapel Hill community of sexual assault survivors, as well as those who could not attend today, but who have expressed their solidarity with survivors, and who continue to struggle with us for justice.  Several of us are primary or secondary survivors of sexual assault, but it is not necessary to recognize a shared experience of sexual assault in order to work together.

Today’s impressive attendance testifies to the potential strength of our Carolina community where society has previously failed us.  The act of coming to a Speak Out implicitly expresses a commitment to ending violence.  This commitment comes from the understanding that if sexual assault is even a conceivable threat to anyone, every one of us lives in a culture of violence in which none of us is invulnerable to violence in one form or another.

We must hold perpetrators of all forms of abuse (including sexual abuse, the abuse of state power, and cultural abuse) accountable for their actions.  And as a community, we must hold each other accountable for bringing perpetrators to justice in a way that benefits both the survivor and our community as a whole.  Any other outcome subjects survivors to renewed trauma and frustration.

I speak today as a non-reporting survivor.  The first time I was sexually assaulted, I was thirteen years old.  As a young person, I was not empowered to access the healthcare –let alone the sympathy– I needed in the wake of the assault.  Having been raised in a culture of violence that teaches victim-blaming even in the absence of comprehensive sexual education, I remained silent about the assault for months, and did not tell my parents for years.  I am only beginning to repair what damage the silence wrought on my interpersonal relationships.

Age is one of a host of factors that complicate a survivor’s ability to report a sexual assault.  To name a few, race able status, religion, gender expression, sexuality, age, and socioeconomic status make reporting any crime to the authorities less a matter of choice than of circumstance and courage.

In order to eliminate victim-blaming, which is the first step to holding perpetrators accountable and eliminating violence from our culture, we must support the methods of care and avenues to justice the survivors in our lives seek.  This may never be easy until we learn that because our struggle for justice and freedom from violence is a shared one, we disempower ourselves when we appropriate, ignore, or actively silence the struggle of our neighbor.

Sarah-Kathryn Bryan

What was submitted:

“We applaud the Chapel Hill Town Council for passing the resolution to hold Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) to a standard of truth in advertising last Monday night.

CPCs were found to be providing false and misleading information about abortion in a 2006 Congressional report.

An advertisement in the Tarheel Beginnings student agenda for Pregnancy Support Services, a local CPC, reads, “You had plans…A baby wasn’t one of them… We can help.” This gives the impression that the organization offers pregnant women a comprehensive overview of their reproductive choices.

Pregnancy Support Services does not make referrals for abortion or birth control. Furthermore, the advertisement makes no mention of Pregnancy Support Services’ religious affiliation. In Tuesday’s edition of the Daily Tar Heel, the agency’s director described the organization as a Christian ministry.

Thousands of young people see this advertisement in the Tarheel Beginnings planners. Given the incriminating information against CPCs found in the Congressional report, we advocate that the New Student and Parent Programs that produced the agendas not accept advertisements from CPCs in the future.”

Today at 10:30, UNC students, faculty, staff, North Carolina community members and representatives from the press began to assemble on the steps of Wilson Library to demonstrate the necessity that Governor Beverly Purdue pardon members of the Wilmington Ten in the final days of her administration.  Reverend Dr. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP aptly described the rhetoric that has surrounded the case for forty years: clutching at straws of evidence that members of the Wilmington Ten broke any law has taken precedence over the fact that the prosecution for their case behaved illegally on multiple occasions.
This is unacceptable in light of the illegal actions known to have been committed by the prosecution during the 1972 case.  Prosecutor Stroud, who has recently been disbarred, feigned serious illness in order to cause a mistrial when he learned that the jury selected for the first Wilmington Ten trial was comprised of ten African Americans and two white men.  According to documents presented by Dr. Tim Tyson, which are currently housed in the Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library, Stroud wrote “B” next to the names of black jurors, and included comments like “KKK Good” and “sensible Uncle Tom Type” in the margins.
There is also evidence that Stroud bribed three of the key witnesses, for example, by purchasing a minibike for one and offering another $40,000 to appear in a grand jury hearing.
Justice for political prisoners, for activists whose very struggle for freedom and justice is criminalized, for those who suffer from the abuse of state power, are all topics of concern for feminists.  The Civil Rights struggle continues today; social and economic injustices persist today, and are perpetuated in public schools, at “our” borders, in prisons.  Women are always implicated in the system, both as participants in and victims of egregious injustice done in the name of free trade and national security, both of which constitute a twentieth-century revision of White Men’s Rights demonstrations that occurred in Wilmington’s historic Hugh MacRae Park at the time of the Wilmington Ten trials.

I used to play in that park, y’all.  -Sarah-Kathryn Bryan

Feminist Students United (FSU) is a progressive feminist organization which affirms that no form of oppression can be overcome until all aspects of racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism are dismantled. We acknowledge intersecting identities and strive to be mindful of these intersections in all our work. We endeavor to create an environment which is non-hierarchical and supportive in nature, and we work to bring about change in our community through education, outreach, direct action and community organizing.

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