How can the arts address sexual violence? Allie Landes, CSON ’16, responded to this question by formulating Speak Out: Standing Up to Sexual Violence through the Arts—a night featuring literature, art, and music to promote healing and empowerment.
The event will take place on Thursday, Nov. 19 in Cushing 001 from 7 to 9 p.m. It will be “a night of healing and empowerment” that will feature poetry and prose readings, art, and musical performances by The Acoustics, BC SLAM!, Laughing Medusa, and several other members of the Boston College community from 7 to 8:30 p.m. A reception with refreshments and discussion will be held directly after the performance portion from 8:30 to 9 p.m. in order to debrief the sensitive topics that will arise throughout the night.
Landes is the mastermind behind this project. In the beginning of the semester, Landes proposed the idea of an open mic night to educate on sexual assault, which had never been done by Bystanders before.
The organization promptly encouraged her to move forward with planning the event and reaching out to performance groups on campus. Allison Kolar, MCAS ’16, and the rest of Bystander Intervention’s advocacy team have also been instrumental in the event’s planning.
Landes was inspired by Take Back the Night, which is a rally that Bystanders presents every spring at BC. She noticed that several students applied to share their experiences with sexual assault, but only two or three were selected to tell their stories. “I saw a gap there and I wanted everyone to share their experiences instead of just picking and choosing,” Landes said.
“Any medium is welcome for people to express their feelings and their perceptions of this issue,” Landes said. “We would never say no to someone. We’re not excluding anyone because we want everyone’s voices to be heard on this issue.”
Landes said that the event’s organizers did have some trouble collecting pieces to be presented. “Getting people to submit pieces is kind of hard because people sometimes feel like it’s censorship because they don’t want to submit their pieces ahead of time,” Landes said. She said authors are concerned that their submissions will be rejected. “People think that we’re going to say no to them, which is absolutely not what we’re doing by asking for submissions,” Landes said.
“We’re actually just wanting to prepare ourselves to be able to deal with whatever specific triggering material will be brought up during the night because … we want to provide all of the resources that we might need to.”
In addition to The Acoustics, BC SLAM!, and Laughing Medusa, other notable performers will be featured in the event, including Landes’ creative writing professor, who will be reading an award-winning poem that he penned, as well as a new a cappella group that will be making its debut at the event. A brief reception will follow these performances so that students will have the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings about the topic at hand.
“My hope is that people will stay after and share their experiences, whether it was their experiences sharing a piece out loud or whether it was just listening to someone else’s, and that people can kind of connect in their common experiences and be able to relate to one another in something that we normally don’t talk about but that we all experience at a very intimate level,” Landes said.
Bystander Intervention is an organization that operates through the Women’s Center at BC. Its purpose is to inform others about bystander behaviors and to empower students to speak up and take a stand in order to prevent rape and sexual assault on campus.
“The goal is to educate everyone about bystander behaviors and why a lot of times we don’t step in when we see things that are problematic and why we should,” Landes said.
The relatively new organization is known for its film screenings, such as the showing of The Invisible War last year and the upcoming screening of The Mask You Live In next semester, and for giving hour-long presentations on the topic of sexual assault to student groups, residence halls, and any other interested groups.
The organization is adding more emphasis to its advocacy campaigns through branding, posters, and events. Now, Bystander Intervention is focusing on hosting prosocial events, like the upcoming Speak Out event, where discussion and interaction will be better facilitated. The group continues to grow as students show more interest, which Landes said she finds exhilarating.
She hopes that by conveying their feelings through art, students will have a more open discussion about sexual assault on campus.
“I’m really happy that performance and poetry slam have become more popular on BC’s campus in the last year, and I think it’s really exciting that people are starting to share their stories more, whether that be through conversation or through art,” Landes said.