Speak About It began as an in-house project at Bowdoin College in 2009, written by two students and two faculty advisors. It was performed that fall by eight current Bowdoin students (Shana was one of them) for the incoming first-years during Orientation. The feedback and reception was overwhelmingly positive, both from first-years and the administration. Campus culture regarding sexual assault prevention and consent education was undergoing a positive shift driven by students who wanted a better, safer campus.
Upon graduating in 2010, Shana had a dream to bring this program to colleges and universities across the country. Speak About It was tackling a difficult topic in a way that no one had tried before: we were honest, painful, real, funny, emotional, entertaining, and educational. And we knew we wanted to bring a sense of comfort and familiarity to each performance. More than anything, we wanted to create a space using performance where students could feel validated and supported in their choices around sex, abstinence, and consent, and also gain information to help make healthy decisions going forward. We were hired by our first paid school in the spring of 2011. In that year, we were able to visit just over 1,000 college first-years, but we knew we could do more. In 2012 we visited nine schools, sparking dialogue with over 5,000 students. In 2013 alone, after hiring two full-time casts and performing at high schools and over a dozen elite colleges, Speak About It was able to spark dialogue with almost 15,000 students.
The organization also grew by leaps and bounds, receiving 501c3 status from the IRS in October of 2013 and welcoming Shana as the full-time Executive Director of Speak About It, Inc. Contracts are already being sent out for spring and fall of 2014, and we’re hoping to reach over 20,000 students in the coming year. But we can’t do it alone.
Our goal is to reach as many high school and college students as we can, but there are definitely barriers along the way. Some schools believe deeply in our message, but are unable to meet the performance fee. Our organization is also challenged to fund the administrative tasks involved with staffing performances across the country throughout the year.
Today, we’re excited to launch our fundraising campaign via rally.org. In three short years, Speak About It has been able to affect the lives of almost 20,000 high school and college students. This is a small number compared to the secondary conversations that have occurred as a result of this performance: conversations with peers and partners about the importance of consent and communication; conversations started by someone being an active bystander at a party, a bar, with their friends; conversations about sexual assault and how we can prevent these stories from happening.
Your gift today will ensure that we can keep the momentum going and bring this dialogue to thousands more students across the US. The more we travel with this program and the more we meet students from across the country, the more we learn that everyone is affected by sexual assault. With your help, we can give a voice to these survivors and the people that love them, and can prevent future assaults by creating a dialogue around healthy sexuality and a culture of bystander intervention.
Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment to consent education and sexual assault prevention among high school and college students. We can’t change the world, but we can spark dialogues that will.