One Thursday evening in the Little Room of Chase Hall, there began an event meant to throw light across a subject too dark to discuss anywhere but in a basement. But that’s incorrect. Sexual assault, or broadly any form of directed abuse in the context of human relations, is not something to sweep behind couches and discuss behind closed doors away from other ears. It is meant to be exposed and treated as injury and trespass.
The event in question was an expose sponsored and organized by the newly formed Sexual Assault and Violence Advocacy Club (SAVAC), a group entirely committed to violence awareness and illumination. This expose was the group’s first event and an impressive beginning to the club’s history.
Inside the Little Room, all was prepared for a mixed media show. On a wall there was tacked artwork, visualizing the themes of the night. There was a large dance floor which was to be occupied by various performances. Set about on chairs and tables were questions and queries surrounding the issues to be discussed and confronted, like “How do you talk to a survivor?” The whole design of the event was meant to inspire thought and dialogue around an issue with such weighty overhead but with a tendency to disappear in public forum. Those agitated and triggered were given a space behind the expose in a back room known as the “self-care station.” There, shaken nerves could steady themselves through mending chatter with trained listeners. There was also a collection of essential oils,to rub into the skin and ease away anxiety. SAVAC had thought of everything, including a safety net for those too quickened by the content.
The whole event began with punctuation. The emcees, co-presidents Charlotte Cramer and Ceri Kurtz of SAVAC, began with a warning regarding the substance and theme of the event to begin. The expose was a mix of spoken word, monologue, dance rendition and musical performance. Very notable was the appearance of TakeNote, one of the many a capella groups on campus.
After about two spoken word events, I noticed a large effuse of people just within the entrance of the Little Room. There was not enough seating and the crowd stood about the room, stretching over heads and leaning into walls for a look of the performances. It was reassuring to see so many people at least sympathetic to the cause. That being said, the crowd was mostly female, something I expected and something the event coordinators were probably expecting just as well. Still, the disparity was there, another reminder of how much work there was to be done.
I had a chat with Peter Boyer, a first-year football player and dedicated musician, how he felt about performing in the context of the expose.
“It was enlightening to be in a room filled with people that cared,” he said regarding his performance: an acoustic cover of “Love in the Dark” by Adele, performed alongside the vocals of another first-year, Kelly McDonald. I had my own poetry read aloud at the event and I too felt reassured by the fact that that the viewing audience might take our messages to heart.
In the end, we were thanked for coming and giving our attention. Past our exits, we are expected to hold our learnings to faith and live, if only slightly, with more consciousness to what goes on below and between. Past that night of confession, confusion and abstraction, there lingers the damage done and the dawning hope of reconciliation. It was a truly touching place to be.