Thursdays in Black, a student-led campaign for safe campuses, has launched across New Zealand tertiary campuses. Co-ordinated by Tertiary Women New Zealand, a branch of NZUSA, the campaign seeks transformation of the policies, practices, and culture that perpetuates and normalizes sexual violence.
To show their support for the campaign, staff and students are encouraged to wear black on Thursdays. Black was chosen as the campaign colour to symbolize the harm that is caused by sexual violence, and it represents grieving and mourning.
This campaign was active in the 90s, and the revival came when a former National Women’s Rights Office (NWRO), contacted Izzy O’Neill, the current NWRO for Tertiary Women New Zealand.
O’Neill, who is also the Thursdays in Black campaign organizer, was spurred to action by her experiences as a student, including Massey University’s response to a sexual assault near campus while she was studying there.
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Massey students were sent a letter “advising them to wear running shoes and to carry a rape whistle, among other advice that was problematic.” A response that O’Neill found appalling.
Further inspiration came from a protest march that took place at Victoria University in 2014. Called Let Me Go Home, the march protested the inadequate response to a series of sexual assaults at a pathway on Kelburn campus.
Led by VUWSA, VUWSA Women’s Group, and Youth for UN Women, the Let Me Go Home protest showed O’Neill “how empowering students can be for each other and how influential students are in terms of challenging and changing rape culture and the cultural landscape of their institutions.”
O’Neill commented that as a cis pakeha woman she “had more access to student support services and resources that were catered to my needs.” The campaign seeks to ensure that universities are providing adequate support to all students.
RAs at Katharine Jermyn Hall (KJ) have shown their support for the campaign. KJ posted a photo on their facebook page with their RAs dressed in black, with a statement that, “Katharine Jermyn Hall is proud to be fully behind Thursdays in Black, Aotearoa, supporting the movement towards a world without rape and violence.”
O’Neill commented, “far too many of my peers have been victimised. Either from childhood abuse or through their time at tertiary, and as a student I knew enough was enough and that as a student and tertiary community, we need to act.”
Students can be part of the campaign by wearing black on Thursdays, following the movement on facebook and Instagram, telling their friends, and supporting survivors by believing them, by listening, and by offering them resources.