Branch Event Raises Sexual Assault AwarenessApril 06, 2011
Recently, about 200 people in Western New York came together to hear stories — and as the stories went on, the audience, too, became characters.
The AAUW Buffalo (NY) Branch joined with the State University of New York, Buffalo’s Wellness Education Services, the school’s Gender Institute, and Western New York’s Family Justice Center to host the Telling Stories event, which focused on a play about campus sexual assault and a film about domestic violence.
The event started off with Telling Our Story, a play written by AAUW Charlottesville-UVA (VA) Branch President Lauren Germain. Her play is about one college woman’s assault and its effects on her college experience and those around her. The cast of 12 — who had only rehearsed and communicated online — included a professor and students from various area colleges.
In Germain’s play, freshman Maggie, her rapist Gian, and others take us through various perspectives. The panel discussion following the play explored what we can do to prevent, address, and react to sexual assault and how we can rewrite Maggie’s story — which really is our story — through campus resources, campus police, and AAUW’s advocacy.
The second part of the event was a screening of Telling Amy’s Story. Ten years ago, mother of two Amy Homan McGee was murdered by her husband. This short documentary, which features an introduction by Mariska Hargitay of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, explores the events leading up to the murder and interviews the people who felt powerless to do anything. A second panel discussion addressed this issue and provided the audience with local anti-domestic violence resources.
One important goal of this AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund Campus Outreach Program event, which was funded through the Evvie Currie Giving Circle, was to get people talking and spur them to action. So it was most rewarding when a graduate student from another campus, Rhonda, came up after the production to ask if our play cast was a traveling troupe. She said she just had to bring these stories to her campus. She heard the story — now she wants to tell others.
We are working with Rhonda to do just that. She is among several people who are joining AAUW because of this event. We are still returning inquiries about membership, educational support, and ways to get involved!
And we in Buffalo hope that soon we will be able to tell a new story — one of a dramatic decrease in campus sexual assault and intimate partner violence on campus — so that the next class of students can be assured greater personal safety as they pursue educational goals. Everyone on a campus appreciates the importance of educational opportunities for economic self-sufficiency, professional attainment, and personal growth. But how can those educational goals be reached if students’ personal safety is compromised?
This post was written by AAUW Buffalo (NY) Branch President Tamara Brown.