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NKU students carrying mattresses, wearing red ‘X’s’ protest sexual abuse on college campuses

Peaceful protest to call attention to sexual violence on college campuses

Peaceful protest to call attention to sexual violence on college campuses

Staff Report

Last week on the Northern Kentucky University campus, a female student carried a mattress on her back around the campus to call attention to her issues with how the university dealt with a sexual assault complaint.

Today, at noon, a group of students organized a peaceful protest, urging a demonstration to support survivors of sexual and domestic violence.

The protest took place on the Student Union Plaza.


A flyer distributed to encourage student participation suggested carrying a mattress, a pillow or other symbol and the taping of a red X on clothing to show support. The flyer added, “Domestic abuse, sexual assault, and rape have all been an alarmingly large part of American society, particularly on college campuses. Society blames the victims, so the victims can often be driven to self-harm and suicide. . .This peaceful protest is a way to give a HUGE middle finger to the perpetrators of these crimes, many of which may in fact share classes with us.”

The demonstration was promoted by the Norse Violence Prevention Center but not sponsored by it as an earlier version of this story stated. A University spokesperson said the Norse Violence Prevention Center did not sponsor it, that it was organized independently by a group of students.

During the protest by the female student last week, NKU’s new Chief of Police Les Kachurek sent the following in an email to the university community:

Please be advised that NKU’s Division of Student Affairs has notified me of a student protesting on campus. Today, a female student has been seen on campus carrying a mattress on her back. Ostensibly, this is her way of expressing her displeasure over the outcome of an administrative hearing, where she accused a male student of sexually assaulting her more than a year ago. Moreover, she has been publicly slandering the male student.

University security was  present for the protest

University security was present for the protest

Any slandering is not our concern, unless it segues into a clear criminal or Student-Code-of-Conduct offense. However, we are obligated to observe and preserve the First Amendment rights of the protester. Therefore, her freedom of speech, expression, and demonstration must be scrupulously guarded. Thus, as police, absent a legal and probative basis, we are prohibited from: initiating contact with her; photographing her; videotaping her; documenting her name and the names of any other protesters, photographing motor vehicles involved in the protest; documenting license plate numbers of vehicles involved in the protest; and making protester-related motor vehicle registration and driver’s license inquiries. Furthermore, we must not negatively react or take enforcement action based on any offensive language she may use, including anti-police rhetoric.

While this student enjoys First Amendment rights, she is not authorized to violate statutory or local-level laws. Thus, obvious criminal or nuisance offenses are enforceable. However, enforcement should be done as professionally and diplomatically as possible, and only as a last resort.

The student in question prevailed in her hearing at NKU but after a six-month ban from campus the male student has returned. She and others spoke at the protest today, sharing their rape and abuse experiences.

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