Ross junior Aditi Jain, left, Engineering senior Andrew Panter, middle, and LSA senior Izzi Nguyen, right, lead chants and speak about importance of Roe on the Diag Wednesday evening. Riley Nieboer/Daily. Buy this photo.

University of Michigan students rallied on the Diag Tuesday afternoon in support of reproductive rights and against sexual violence. Students gathered in front of the Hatcher Graduate Library to listen and participate in discussions with members of Roe v. Rape, the student organization that hosted the event.

Founded by U-M alum Emma Sandberg in 2019, Roe v. Rape advocates for reproductive rights on campus and assists survivors of sexual violence. Business junior Aditi Jain is one of the co-presidents of Roe v. Rape. She told The Michigan Daily that Sandberg launched the organization after having a bad experience filing a complaint with another university’s Title IX office in 2019 when she learned that pursuant to University policy, complainants at the University of Michigan were required to be cross-examined by her perpetrator. Effective Oct. 2021, University policy states cross-examination processes must now be mediated by an advisor from both the respondent and complainant, but cross-examination is still required by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Michigan.

“When a survivor was hearing their case, their perpetrator could cross-examine them,” Jain said. “That means a victim would have to be interrogated by their rapist which is completely traumatizing and not okay at all. So (Sandberg) formed this to have a demand against that.”

During the rally, members of Roe v. Rape spoke about why they believe overturning Roe v. Wade has been harmful to a huge portion of the American population. In June 2022, the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade, effectively revoking the constitutional right to abortion and enabling abortion bans to take place.

Andrew Panter, Engineering senior and co-president of Roe v. Rape, spoke at the rally about how a lack of access to abortion care combined with sexual violence can create dangerous home life situations for many women and children, specifically.

“Roe v. Rape is focused on sexual violence, but it’s all too clear how reproductive coercion can stack with these problems to not only oppress people, but further entrench them in their situation,” Panter said.

LSA sophomore Cory Plotzke, a member of Roe v. Rape, spoke about how the government took away reproductive rights from students by overturning Roe v. Wade and urged students to vote for candidates who will prioritize reproductive rights in the upcoming Nov. 8 election. The ballot includes Proposal 3, which restores reproductive freedom and prevents the prosecution of doctors for providing abortion care in Michigan.

Plotzke congratulated attendees for embracing political activism by coming to the rally.

“I want to outline the absolute importance there is in this upcoming election when it comes to securing our reproductive rights,” Plotzke said. “Let your political action begin (with) voting, volunteering and getting involved with events like this one.”

After the rally, Panter told The Daily how Roe v. Rape has worked to promote reproductive rights and combat sexual violence over the last couple of years. One of the organization’s biggest projects has been helping to draft Senate Bill No. 497, which was introduced in the Michigan Legislature by state Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, in June 2021 and is currently in the legislative process. The bill would expand the Michigan penal code’s definition of “mentally incapacitated” to include people who willingly ingested mind-altering substances like alcohol.

“We think it doesn’t matter if you drink the alcohol on your own or someone (forces you to), you’re still mentally incapacitated,” Panter said. “So our proposed bill revises that definition to include more survivors of sexual assault and protect them.”

Panter said he feels the University’s current policies involving sexual violence are not enough to protect its students. He added that he is hopeful new University President Santa Ono will support survivors and work to prevent sexual violence on campus. At the Board of Regents meeting last month, Ono pledged to create a central ethics, integrity and compliance office to help address sexual misconduct complaints.

“We’re supposed to be leaders and best, but when the students can’t trust the faculty to protect and guide them in a safe, responsible manner, how are students supposed to thrive?” Panter asked. “We’re looking forward to seeing how President Ono addresses some of the problems with the (campus) climate.”

The University has had a long line of high-profile sexual harassment cases come to light over the past few years, from former provost Martin Philbert and late athletic doctor Robert Anderson to former professor Bruce Conforth and former President Mark Schlissel. Plotzke said U-M administration must rebuild trust with students and faculty to make it clear that campus is a safe space for the community.

“I think (a lack of support for survivors) is one of the worst problems the University faces at the moment,” Plotzke said. “I think that should be among the top of (the University administration’s) priorities, especially into the coming next term.”

LSA senior Alyssa Cadez-Martin also helped organize the rally. Cadez-Martin is a member of Roe v. Rape and is also the Director of Community Outreach and Activism for the Sexual Violence Education and Empowerment Branch of the Panhellenic Peer Educator Program, another student organization that works to combat sexual violence on campus, specifically in sororities. Cadez-Martin said she is working to expand her organization’s outreach to the entire campus.

“Because (the Panhellenic Peer Educator Program) was so focused on Greek life, I wanted to do something that was focused more on the student body so that I can use those resources I get as an exec member (at the Panhellenic Peer Educator Program) to bring them to the student body,” Cadez-Martin said.

Cadez-Martin said she sees potential for the U-M student body to participate in more events like the Roe v. Rape rally and mobilize around issues related to sexual violence. If University administration is able to see how important these issues are to students, she believes they would do more to combat sexual harassment and violence.

“I feel like the student body as a whole has been very receptive, listening to these issues and trying to combat them,” Cadez-Martin said. “I’ve seen so many student protests and student organizations getting behind these issues, but I do feel like the University can do a bit more about advertising and providing low-cost and easily accessible options.”

Daily Staff Reporter Joey Lin can be reached at joeyylin@umich.edu.

Correction 11/4: Emma Sandberg did not participate in the Title IX process at the University of Michigan. This article has been updated.