NU groups launch anti-sexual violence campaign

Tom Meyer

A coalition of Northwestern student groups and University organizations launched a letter-writing campaign Tuesday to encourage NU students and community members to write “break-up letters” to sexual violence.

“Dear Sexual Violence,” the campaign led by Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators and Take Back the Night, will feature letters on a Tumblr site devoted to the cause and seeks letters from any members of the community.

“The reason I like this idea so much is that it reinforces the notion that sexual violence is not just this single occurrence that occurs in a vacuum,” said Jai Broome, SHAPE’s spokesman. “When it happens it affects all members of the community. I want this to be the sort of thing where people can write a letter even if they haven’t been directly affected by it personally.”

The idea for the campaign originated in a new Essential NU incoming students saw in the fall, Broome said. The presentation featured a student play called Student Body that addressed sexual violence. A scene from the play in which characters read a break-up letter to sexual violence was performed at a kick-off event for the letter-writing campaign Tuesday night in Norris University Center.

“We always like to start by saying that we aren’t trying to send a message; we’re trying to ask a question,” said Nikki Zaleski (Comm ’08), who wrote and directed the play in collaboration with NU theatre Prof. Michael Rohd. “The question we’re asking is, how can we as an individual and as a community break up with sex violence and rape culture?”

The play will be presented again April 26 as part of Take Back the Night, an annual march hosted by NU College Feminists to raise awareness for sexual assault prevention.

Events such as the letter-writing campaign and TBTN can help promote sexual health at NU and encourage an end to sexual violence, said Laura Anne Stuart, coordinator of sexual health education and sexual violence prevention at the Center for Awareness, Response and Education. CARE is one of the co-sponsors of the campaign.

“It’s often difficult to get people involved in (discussions of) sexual violence. It’s a scary topic people don’t want to talk about,” Stuart said. “The letter-writing campaign is important because it is addressing areas of the campus that might make sex violence more acceptable or more common. And it’s saying, ‘I’m done with it.'”

Broome, a Weinberg junior, said TBTN approached SHAPE to ask them for help with publicity for the event. The groups have now partnered with Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault, CARE, Campus Coalition on Sexual Violence, Rainbow Alliance, LGBT Resource Center, NU Active Minds, Her Campus, Student Body and Sex Week in an “unprecedented” effort to try to broaden the audience for the campaign and raise awareness about sexual violence, he said.

Broome and Stuart said one of the main goals of the campaign is to bring the issue to people who do not often talk about it or know its frequency. Stuart said in anonymous surveys done every year, about 10 percent of NU students report having been victims of sexual violence, which is similar to other schools that participate in compatible surveys.

“The biggest thing is just how prevalent this is on college campuses,” Broome said. “Most people know someone who’s been raped but they just might not know it. That’s the big thing. We want to see what kind of changes people want to see on campus. That’s the ultimate goal.”

Broome said the coalition hopes both individuals and NU organizations will submit letters for the campaign.

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