Tuesday evening, following the Badger Votes Forum, District 8 alder candidate Ayomi Obuseh posted to Facebook a post condemning those who lie about being survivors of sexual assault.
During the forum, her opponent, Julianna Bennett, had shared her own experience with sexual assault as well as her desire to make UW-Madison a safer place. Obuseh’s post was made soon after the meeting ended.
“It’s appalling to hear someone claim to be ‘survivors’ of sexual abuse when they aren’t or using it to humanize themselves and gain empathy from others who don’t share those experiences,” Obuseh wrote in the post. “If you don’t share that experience YOU ARE BLESSED.”
The post has now since been deleted.
In a statement Wednesday, Bennett said it was clear Obuseh’s comments referred to her.
“I’m saddened and appalled by anyone, let alone my opponent, gaslighting my experiences as a survivor,” Bennet said. “One in four women at UW have experienced sexual assault, yet only one in 11 cases are reported. Most reports are truthful, but many don’t report for fear of not being believed. My fears were realized last night.”
Wednesday evening, Obuseh spoke out on twitter saying that her comments on facebook were “in no way directed toward my opponent.”
“My post was coming from a place of hurt in response to someone I grew up with and felt as though they used the word ‘survivor’ in regards to domestic abuse, a situation which they openly shared with me, in the context of sexual assault and abuse,” Obuseh said. “As a survivor of sexual assault, what they had said deeply hurt me and I should have had a one on one conversation with them specifically.”
She reiterated that sentiment on a Facebook post Thursday.
Obuseh did not respond to multiple requests for further comment.
In an interview with Madison365, Bennet expressed her concerns with Obuseh’s comments, detailing how they reflect a larger culture that is dissmisive toearsd sexual assault surviors.
“It had a deep impact on me,” Bennett said. “And, you know, whether it was explicit or targeted, it shouldn’t have been said and further perpetuates the societal culture of placing suspicion on survivors, rather than empathy.
“Because we shouldn’t be minimizing survivor’s experiences,” Bennett continued. “And I think we should make it a culture like if you want to come forward about it, you can and you should. And if you want to keep it private, you can and you should.”
This morning, Bennet posted to her campaign instagram story thanking her supporters and encouraging all to join in her final push before the election on April 6th.
“Let’s reflect on your allyship, believe survivors, condemn harmful rhetoric, and build a Madison [where] everyone feels safe, welcome, and included,” she said.
Obuseh and Bennett are vying to replace outgoing alder Max Pretigiacomo to represent the campus area of downtown Madison on the Common Council in Tuesday’s election.
The following are a list of resources to contact for victims of sexual assault. UHS Survivor Services, 608-265-5600 (option 3); the Rape Crisis Center in Madison, 24-hour hotline, 608-251-7273; the National Sexual Assault Hotline, 1-800-656-4673