‘I don’t want to be fearful’: Sac State students march against sexual violence

Attendees demand change across a dark campus


Alyssa Branum

Third-year political science major Jennifer Galinato addresses President Robert Nelsen over lack of administrative action against sexual assaults on campus in front of The WELL Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Galinato is one of three student speakers at the Student March Against Sexual Violence who denounced the sexual assaults that happened last fall.

Justine Chahal

Jennifer Galinato, a third year political science major, addressed a crowd of Sacramento State students in the dark holding a letter. The letter is not addressed to anyone in the group before her, but to the individual who assaulted her when she was nineteen. 

“I don’t want to be fearful of you anymore,” Galinato said. “I don’t want to be walking around with this weight in my chest, scared for my life, struggling to survive because I am tired of it.”

Her voice rose painfully as Galinato spoke about how she considered transferring out of Sac State when she heard about the sexual assaults last fall. 

“I should not have to be struggling,” Galinato said. “I should not have to be living to survive nor should anybody else on this campus.”

She later marched across campus with fellow students chanting, “we will not stay silent against sexual violence.”

The Student March Against Sexual Assault was held on Thursday. The event began at The Well, where students gathered to march there to Sacramento Hall. 

The march was organized by members of the Sacramento State chapter-members of the College Democrats, which included Galinato. The College Democrats focus on tackling political issues on and off campus, according to fourth year political science major and club President Ellen Bezanson. 

First-year political science major and College Democrats member Nikita Akhumov said the College Democrats planned the event in response to the sexual assaults from last semester.

This is not something that can be pushed under the rug and safety on campus is a much more serious issue than I think most students give credit to.

— Ellen Bezanson

Bezanson said the march was planned as a way for students to voice their grievances in an informal way so all students could participate. According to her, the decision to hold the event in the evening was to highlight student concerns about the lack of lighting on campus. 

“This is not something that can be pushed under the rug and safety on campus is a much more serious issue than I think most students give credit to,” Bezanson said. “That was made well aware back in the fall.”

During the event, Bezanson provided student recommendations on how to improve safety which included better mental health services, increased funding for service centers and police reform. 

Before the march began, three student speakers talked about their own experiences with assault and their frustration with the administration response to these incidents. 

One of the speakers, fourth-year criminal justice major Annalisa Vasquez, is also a survivor of assault. Vasquez said administration seemed upset about the assaults, but not as furious as the students were. 

“I would like more denouncing and public talking about it, not just when an attack happens, but constantly letting people know that we’re trying to figure something out,” Vasquez said. “I just don’t really see that happening.”

The College Democrats partnered with President Robert Nelsen’s office for the event, according to Akhumov, WEAVE and the Pride Center. 

Bezanson said she wanted the march to serve as a way for students to learn what resources are available to them. 

“While we don’t want a situation like this to happen again it’s better to prepare students for the worst than let them wander around unknowingly,” Bezanson said. 

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Speaker Emilie Jocson, a third year international relations major, said she was disappointed that events like the town hall and Thursday’s march had to be led by students.

“You would think that, with a campus so diverse and with so many resources, that the university takes a stance with its students and stand up for the students,” Jocson said. “The fact that we have to do everything ourselves is a reflection of the administration’s character. This whole complicated, preoccupied bureaucracy doesn’t just affect administration.” 

Jocson said she believes the current support systems on campus like the Title IX Office and the overall process to report a sexual assault are not helpful to students. 

“The fact that I’m repeating it again, it’s just kind of proof that, despite the sexual violence prevention program on campus, most of it is not really being implemented,” Jocson said.

Akhumov said he hopes students and administration can work together to improve safety on campus. He said the event was to ensure administration is held accountable. Marching in front of Sacramento Hall — where Nelsen’s office is located — was symbolic of this. 

President Nelsen spoke at the event and promised that he and his office are actively working to achieve the goals listed on the campus safety plan. 

In response to his retirement, Nelsen said the members of his office would still be active and continue to work on improving safety after he is gone. 

“We’ll talk about survivors and we will support the survivors but we don’t even want survivors,” Nelsen said. “We want it to be safe and it’s up to all of us to come together to make that happen.”