They carried candles to show they're not afraid of the night. They marched across the Duke campus, chanting "Hey, hey, ho, ho . . . All rape has got to go.”
In a twist of sad irony, Duke University's annual "Take Back the Night" rally Wednesday came the same week administrators suspended the men's lacrosse season while police investigate allegations of gang rape at a team party.
The allegations have spurred a sense of activism on campus and has many students hoping it will raise awareness about the many problems of sexual violence.
The alleged victim, a student at nearby North Carolina Central University, has told police she was pulled into a bathroom, beaten, choked and raped by three men at a March 13 party, where she and another dancer were hired to perform.
After interviewing the woman and searching the party house, police obtained a warrant seeking DNA samples from team members. Police collected DNA samples with a cheek swab from 46 members of the lacrosse team last week; the 47th player, the only black member, wasn’t tested because the victim said her attackers were white.
Team captains released a statement denying any sexual activity took place at the party March 13th in an off-campus home rented by several players. But medical records released this week show the alleged victim suffered injuries consistent with a rape.
The team admits there was underage drinking at the party. Players also admit they hired the alleged victim and another woman as exotic dancers to perform at the party. They have declined to make any other public statements.
No one has been charged, and the team’s captains have said the tests will clear players.
Students speaking out
On campus, students are demanding answers from administrators who are appealing for calm and patience.
Jazmyn Singleton, a sophomore from Colorado, says the allegations have spurred her to join fellow students in demanding the University address racial tension at Duke.
"I don't feel safe walking across campus,” said Singleton. "Now that I'm speaking out, who's gonna want to silence me?" She said she wants to bring more attention to what she calls a culture of "white privilege" on campus.
Other students say they hope the increased awareness will bring new attention to sexual violence, as the university observes "Sexual Assault Prevention Week.”
“I don’t care if the person if the person is blue or pink, you know, sexual assault is wrong,” said Jeremy Fuller, a Duke junior.
He is hoping that at the very least, the allegations will raise awareness and get students across the board to unite in the fight against sexual assault.
"That is what I’m trying to get people to understand. It doesn’t matter, you know, what race the victim was or what race her alleged perpetrator was," he said. "We need to stand up against sexual assault and not really try to defend one type of person or one gender.”
Administrators urge patience
Duke administrators say they are waiting for the police to wrap up their investigation before deciding whether to take any further action. Administrators say if the allegations are proved to be true, they will take the strongest action possible against those responsible.
Duke President Richard Brodhead condemned racist comments allegedly aimed at other women walking near the lacrosse house the night of the party.
"It is disgusting," he said. "Racism and its hateful language have no place in this community."
Brodhead met privately with a small group of students Wednesday. Students like Singleton say they plan to press for more action from administrators as the community continues to rally behind the alleged victim.