Image Description: Candlelit vigil “Pour Paris” honouring the victims of the 2015 Paris attacks
As part of the Sexual Violence and Sexual Abuse Awareness Week, Oluwakemi Agunbiade (Kemi for short), a second year law student at Wadham College, has organised a candlelit vigil. It is to take place on Saturday February 8th at 8pm outside the Clarendon Building. With the collaboration of various University-wide and local organisations addressing the issue of sexual violence, Kemi hopes to raise awareness and show support for the survivors of sexual violence and abuse.
The Oxford Student spoke to Kemi in order to discuss the issue of sexual violence, what message she thinks the event should transmit and which effects she hopes it will have.
Kemi, herself an ally to the cause, decided to organise a vigil because of the symbolic value it has. As she describes it, survivors should feel that “light is hope and we recognise that there is so much to live for. Also, we will remember there are people who live through the experience of sexual violence and abuse, but there are some who do not make it.” Furthermore, it is her goal that survivors who attend feel “this is me being seen, this is me being acknowledged without having to come forward”. It is Kemi’s belief that everyone attending receive this message, whether they are a survivor or an ally.
When asked about the issue of sexual violence in the University environment, specifically in Oxford, Kemi noted that “there is not enough emotional support”. Agunbiade explained that the way cases of sexual violence are dealt with is overly bureaucratic, not considering the individual enough. The vigil is meant to give everyone the feeling that they are being heard..
Furthermore, Kemi accentuated the stigma existing especially in universities, whereby it is though that only cis women experience sexual violence: “That is what we (women) are told growing up. It makes women hyper-aware of this and men are not really acknowledged”. Kemi mentioned the issues both male and LGBTQ+ survivors face, as their experience is often not validated in the same way. She stated that since men are supposed to be “tough”, it is often hard for them to come forward. As for the LGBTQ+ cases, Kemi argued that because it is a “community”, it is often harder to report a perpetrator. This is why, at the vigil, Kemi intends to give both these groups a voice.
In the long-term, Kemi hopes that it encourages people to take action against the problem of sexual violence and abuse. “We want people show that they are actually here rather than just supporting the cause”.
The event, as so many other happening during the Sexual Violence and Sexual Abuse Awareness Week, is a step towards recognising the problem of sexual violence and moving towards positive changes.