Students wear red in support of sexual harassment victims

Bolstered by wave of support, assault survivors share their stories


Adjacent COVID-19 safety signs is one of the posters posted around campus, representing the number of women who have experienced sexual harassment or assault, according to a report by UN Women United Kingdom

Crimson blouses and maroon t-shirts sat at wiped-clean desks; on SMART Boards, strawberry sweaters twiddled with pencils at home. On Monday, March 22, Oak Park High School students wore red to show support for victims of sexual assault and harrassment. 

Following the murder of Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old British woman and marketing executive. Wayne Couzens, a Metropolitan Police officer, has been charged with her murder.  A number of people young and old have taken to social media to share support for victims, and in some cases, their own stories as well. 

The public outcry, fueled primarily by women and bolstered by the support of male and nonbinary allies, grew into a digital flurry. This is what prompted the owner of the Instagram account @attentionoakpark to first post on March 19. 


Within the following three days, the account gained 130 followers, later posting several other times to urge students to wear red on the following Monday. Posts were shared via Instagram stories as students displayed their support for the movement and encouraged their peers to do the same. 

The owner of the account, who asked to remain anonymous due to the circumstances of the topic, was inspired to begin advocating by the people around them, particularly their friends and mother. Most of all, they were spurred on due to the fact that sexual harassment and sexual assault are not something often talked about within the community, despite its constant impact. 

“By seeing [the] protests of the Black Lives Matter movement and then seeing what happened to Sarah Everard, it made me wonder, ‘how come nobody is talking about this?’ As I started talking to influential women in my life, such as my friends and my mom, I realized that this is something that happens in Oak Park too,” the account owner wrote to the Talon. “I wanted to start a conversation that was not happening in Oak Park yet.”

One such post from March 19 begins with a first slide displaying only three characters: a red 97% on an otherwise-black screen. The second slide reads, “WEAR RED THIS MONDAY.” The 97% as a figure has been skyrocketing in its infamy after the UN Women United Kingdom released a report stating that 3%, the inverse being 97%, of women aged 18 to 24 in the United Kingdom “told [UN Women UK] that they had not experienced any of the behaviors we asked about.”

“I hope to show that targets of sexual harassment, assault, rape, abuse, and coercion have allies and that there are people who have their backs, and to essentially start the conversation [about] these topics and how women have to battle through so much in order to be safe and even live,” the account owner wrote. 

The account owner hopes that this issue will be addressed by the administration and groups within OPHS and the community. Their plan is to call attention to information that is not often discussed on campus, to create a conversation that isn’t being held and to allow the community to build a safer and kinder school for all. 

“I hope to leave an impact that allows people to want to educate themselves, their peers and even family members. I realized [that] many people do not even recognize the difference between sexual assault and sexual harrassment, so how are students supposed to protect themselves incase that does happen to them?” the account owner wrote. 

While the account owner did notice a number of people who reposted their information onto their own Instagram stories, they felt that they did not see a significant turnout regarding the number of students who wore red on Monday. They do, however, hope that their account can begin the conversations necessary to incite change, even though “we haven’t gotten to that stage yet.”

“I personally went to the campus over the weekend to put up flyers and posters that advocated for change and helped to start a conversation for students who might not have social media,” the account owner wrote. “But I hope that this can build momentum for what’s to come.”

Victims of sexual harassment or assault are encouraged to seek resources. RAINN provides information regarding how to identify/prevent such behavior and how to recover from past experiences. Workplace Respond offers resources from emotional support to legal counsel for those who face harassment in the workplace. Lean In has a number of guides for healing and discussion on both an individual and company-wide level.