San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

SDSU students hold protest in response to issues of sexual violence on campus

The march comes after the District Attorney’s Office decision to not pursue criminal charges against football players accused in the gang-rape of a minor
Photo by Christian Houser
Student protesters march through SDSU on Dec. 14 in response to the District Attorney’s Office decision to not file criminal charges in SDSU alleged rape case.

“We are mad. We are upset. We are ashamed, and we’re disappointed.” 

Those were the emotions expressed by Jade Smith, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice and psychology. 

Smith, a survivor herself, has experienced sexual violence and felt compelled to organize a survivor’s march at San Diego State University in collaboration with organizations “Change SDSU” and “SDSU Survivors Collective” to make a statement on campus. 

With sharpies, posters and a megaphone, Smith and other students held a survivor’s march on Dec. 14 in response to the District Attorney’s Office decision on Dec. 7 to not file criminal charges against former SDSU punter, Matt Araiza, and two teammates, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko, who were accused of raping a minor at an off-campus party in October 2021.

Smith and others also protested against SDSU’s administration and university police handling of sexual assault, who according to them, believe it is inadequate. 

“Our main goal is to show SDSU that we don’t tolerate how they’re reacting to the situation and treating the situation,” Grant Becker, a freshman computer science major, said. “And something needs to be changed with how (administration) treat abuse and sexual assault survivors.”

Starting in front of Hepner Hall, students walked across campus holding signs saying, “Stop protecting abusers,” “Title IX ignores us and survivors” and more stating that they will not be ignored and they demand justice for sexual violence survivors, including Jane Doe.

During their march, students made a stop at Manchester Hall — the building housing the office of President Adela de la Torre — to make their voices heard.

Among those who spoke were Smith and a student who wishes to go by their alias name, Hana, to conceal their identity. 

Hana, another survivor, spoke about their own experience and expressed frustration with SDSU.

“In this school, a place, a system that lies to us that says, ‘we’re here to support you’ — you have not shown up,” Hana said. “I am tired of it, I want to see change in my lifetime. I’m tired of seeing women fight for the same thing.”

According to a shared post on Instagram from Change SDSU, SDSU Survivors Collective and others said, “sexual assault and rape has been an ongoing issue at SDSU” and it is a “serious issue” at the university.

Nevertheless, this post from Change SDSU, SDSU Survivors Collective and others believe if these cases continue to occur without any discipline, it will continue enabling “sexual assault and rape behavior.” Jenielle Domaoal, a senior biology major, who was inspired to show support in amplifying students’ discontent with the university and the District Attorney’s Office, agrees with that statement.

Throughout her four years of attending the university, Domaoal said she has heard countless cases of those who have experienced sexual violence.

Domaoal believes the administration and de la Torre have not done enough to address the gang rape allegations made against Araiza, Leonard and Ewaliko to make students feel safe when going to campus. 

On Dec. 7, the same day of the DA’s decision to not pursue criminal charges against the accused football players, de la Torre issued a campus-wide email regarding the matter.

In her email, de la Torre acknowledges that it will be “a difficult time” for those in the community. 

However, despite the District Attorney’s Office decision to not file criminal charges, SDSU will continue its own investigation in the meantime, according to the email.

“Since SDPD confirmed in July that we could proceed with our student conduct investigation without compromising its criminal investigation, we have interviewed individuals from across our community and reviewed a range of evidence,” the email noted.

Students attending the protest have mixed reactions toward de la Torre’s email announcing SDSU will keep its investigation active.

Student protesters finish their march in front of Manchester Hall and speak to on-lookers on Dec. 14. (Photo by Christian Houser)

“I guess I am a little relieved that they’re still putting an investigation into it,” Becker said. “Do I think something worthwhile will come from it? Unfortunately, not really.”

Domaoal feels hopeful about de la Torre’s email, but said she feels it may be too good to be true.

“I feel we can all hope (de la Torre) is going to do the right thing and find these men guilty for what they did,” Domaoal said. “But from what we can see, she’s hiding behind the police, hiding behind the district attorney.”

As the investigation at SDSU continues, Smith says she and others will continue marching and making their voices heard.

“We know what we have to do to stand up for what we believe in, and we’re going to continue to do that,” Smith said. “And if President Adela doesn’t see that, if SDSU doesn’t see that, then that just means we’re going to continue fighting harder and harder.”

SDSU supports and promotes its faculty, staff and students’ freedom of expression, San Diego State University said in an email statement. The university asks for anyone with direct knowledge of the incident in October 2021 to come forward with information as the investigation remains active.

SDSU and de la Torre urge any students or community members experiencing a crisis to seek support from SDSU’s Title IX office.

About the Contributor
Daesha Gear
Daesha Gear, '23-24 Editor in Chief
Daesha Gear is a senior transfer from Riverside City College. Before becoming involved at The Daily Aztec in the 2022 fall semester, Gear was involved in her publication at RCC called Viewpoints, serving as the Opinion and Assistant News Editor. At her community college, the Journalism Association of Community Colleges awarded her an honorable mention for covering a feature story on LGBTQ+ students at RCC. Heading into her final year as a Journalism-Media Studies major, Gear serves as The Daily Aztec’s 2023-2024 Editor-in-Chief, making her the first Black woman to hold this title in the publication’s history. Outside of her role at The Daily Aztec, Gear has freelanced for The Raincross Gazette, a publication in Riverside, and interned with NBC 7 San Diego as a Digital Intern. Daesha has also appeared in a story for the San Diego Union-Tribune and in SDSU’s JMS podcast called “Where Ya At?” In her final year, Gear hopes to continue broadening her expertise in technology and its impact on the ever-changing landscape of journalism. But if she’s not writing or handling matters related to the publication, Gear is probably watching basketball, horror films or exploring new cities. 
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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
SDSU students hold protest in response to issues of sexual violence on campus