Sexual violence is a very prominent issue on college campuses. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
There are many ways to bring awareness to sexual assault, and Speak About It is using theatre as a way to get student’s attention about the matter.
Speak About It is a nonprofit organization that works with colleges and high schools across the country to bring awareness to issues, such as sexual assault and promotes healthy relationships with plays and monologues written by assault victims.
According to the Speak About It website, 99 percent of students that were surveyed responded that Speak About It provides useful information about what it means to give and get effective consent in sexual situations.
Kim Hartshorn, Chairman of the Plattsburgh State Theatre Department spoke to how impactful lessons about important topics can be because of the personal and compelling nature of live performances.
“With sensitive topics, the interactions can be very intense and can invoke many emotions in survivors, assaulters, and supporters of victims,” Hartshorn said. “They can all be affected in so many different ways.”
Hartshorn emphasized the importance of creating a safe space so that the performance is most effective, but also to ensure the safety of the audience.
Butterfly Blaise, Director of Title IX on campus also stressed that the environment that surrounds these programs has to be one of safety because the different mediums may be good for some students but harmful to others.
“It’s very important to personalize the topic.” Blaise said. “However, it shouldn’t necessarily require that you listen to someone’s experience to care. Sometimes it can help more people understand, but it may do more harm than good.”
Blaise also stressed the importance that New York State is one of the few states that has established a universal definition of affirmative consent, and that is what every college student in New York is bound to.
Many of these prevention programs take place during orientation or the first couple months of the academic year, and they specifically target freshman.
“Freshmen are a new audience for the campus and orientation is a great time to start this conversation,” Blaise said. “There is also New York State legislation called 129B that mandates that certain individuals are given prevention education, and freshman are one of those groups.”
Title IX is constantly working at going beyond all the minimum standards to make sure this information and the opportunities they create for learning are reaching as many people as they can.
Ashley Ahrent, a PSUC junior art major stated that the information that is learned in these prevention programs is essential for incoming freshmen because a lot of it isn’t covered in high school.
“They don’t teach this kind of stuff in high school,” Ahrent said. “A lot of people don’t know who to report an assault to and what consists of assault. It’s important because this information stays with us throughout our lives.”
The importance of sexual violence awareness and prevention is not lost on the students of SUNY Plattsburgh.
Lionel Petion Jr., a junior sociology major expressed that sexual assault prevention should be consistently taught to make sure that Plattsburgh’s campus is the safest place it can be.
“Awareness is crazy important!” Petion said, “We are supposed to be safe on our campus, and to do that we need to educate our students and our faculty.”
Although PSUC’s Theatre Department doesn’t currently have any performances exclusively about sexual assault coming up, they are still bringing important issues into the spotlight.
Tonight, the PSUC Center for Community Engagement, Theatre and Criminal Justice Department are putting on “Mariposa and the Saint” highlighting solitary confinement and other issues with the prison system.
Title IX is planning on putting on many events specifically in regards to sexual assault in the near future. There will be resource panels that highlight resources and supports for victims of sexual or interpersonal violence in October. There are also many plans for the upcoming spring semester for Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Email Windsor Burkland at firstname.lastname@example.org