“Just ask.” It still astounds me to this day that such a simple message is so unheard, so taboo, and to some, completely unattainable. Having just returned from the bulk of our national tour, I am overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment – being apart of something so much bigger than myself brings a lifetime of reward. I’m reminded of when we flew out of Sea-Tac, and there was Mt. Rainier. A towering mass of molten rock, amidst a sea of clouds. A true test of time. Then there’s little me – bones and flesh. How humbling.
This tour represents everything I’d ever like to do with my career. The chance to change lives by making a topic that is so relevant to each and every human on the planet so attainable and approachable. For one hour, we stand on that stage and just talk about sex. No taboos, no scare tactics, no unrealistic expectations: play safe, think ahead, and never be afraid to speak up or speak out. Every show ends with impact. You can feel it hanging in the air, as tangible as the person next to you. These students leave feeling safer, more prepared, and they know their resources.
Each and every school we visited was so welcoming, open to the dialogue, and eager to continue it. It’s incredibly empowering, not to mention relieving, to know that there are people on every campus dedicated to ending sexual assault in their community. Everywhere we went, we instantly had friends with a common goal. These friends ran the gamut of race, creed, orientation, interests, backgrounds but their passion was the same across the board. All of them had seen an impact made or a need for one, and jumped at the chance to make that difference. It gives me immense hope for the future of our society (hope I maybe didn’t have before this tour).
We had a number of students approach us after each show to show their appreciation or share their story – one stands out to me. A young Korean student approached me and expressed how he had never seen something so powerful. He had just come to America, and never in his life had he had this conversation or anything like it; it’s just not part of their culture. Now, suddenly, all taboos were gone. He expressed how empowered he felt to be a part of this dialogue, to share what he’s seen both here and back home, and most importantly, how much more excited and prepared he felt for college in America. I may have teared up. A big thanks to that young man for coming forward to share those words – it just further reinforced how much I never want to stop having this conversation.
Another part of what we do is prepare the student and peer advisors, the RA’s and Deans, to continue this dialogue once we are gone. Much to our regret, we don’t get to stay at every college and continue this dialogue. We must prepare them for the inevitable talks that will ensue. This part of the program is arguably the most important. It’s easy to hypothesize about how these conversations would go, but when a student approaches you with a need, or you’re fielding the “how drunk is too drunk” questions, a lot can go wrong without proper preparation.
It can be a hard conversation to have, though. Scare tactics have been used so excessively for so long that a lot of people can’t see outside the statistics. I recall one facilitation conversation over dinner with a group of peer advisors, where I was talking through the statistics in the show and how to rationalize them. “1 in 4 women college-aged will experience attempted or completed sexual assault.” I remember the looks on their faces – particularly one young woman who turned a shade of white. The beautiful side is, I get to help turn that around. Through our conversation I explained that those statistics, however scary they may be, are empowering to know. Awareness is everything. Simply being aware that it can happen to you greatly increases the chances that it won’t. With awareness comes preparation.
If we changed one student’s perspective, one student’s routine, created one active bystander at each of our shows, then we’ve done our job. Based on that, I’d say we’ve done our job a thousand times over and I am eternally grateful to be a part of that. A big thanks to Shana, our producer, fearless leader and amazing friend. Without her guidance, her script, and her passion for life, all would be for nothing. To my fellow cast-mates, for bringing the fun, dedication and for being so damn genuine. To all the RA’s, the JA’s, Wetlands, SARSSM, Deans, Mules, Goats, Ephs, to every single student to came to our performance, to every one that becomes an active bystander or simply just checks in with a friend – thank you. You’re changing this world.