CLA Change team and WRAC host speak out to share #MeToo experiences
Tuesday, March 20 the College of Liberal Arts Change team hosted their first #ICantKeepQuiet speak out in the Kirby Student Center Garage. The speak out was one of many arranged events to celebrate Women’s History Month.
The speak out consisted of students, faculty and staff getting up on stage to tell their stories and share their experiences.
The CLA Change team strives to create an inclusive environment on campus, which is a goal of UMD’s strategic plan of perspective, inclusion and equality. Assistant Professor Whitney Jacobson, Executive Office and Administrative Specialist Stephanie Carlson, Professor Elizabethada Wright, and instructor Susan Perala-Dewey are all apart of the CLA Change team and helped organize Tuesday’s speak out.
“I’ve been thinking about it since the women’s march last year, I felt there was a need for all of us here on our campus, faculty, staff, students, to have a venue to speak out, share our story and to not let the movement die,” Perala-Dewey said.
At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, the CLA Change team hosted an extended film series surrounding racial injustices. When the #MeToo movement became popular on Twitter, back in October following Alyssa Milano’s tweet encouraging women to speak out about their experience with sexual harassment, members of the team were inspired to do something.
“We aim for one event a month and so before holiday break we decided we wanted to do the speak out and it just really made sense to do the speak out during women’s history month,” Jacobson said.
A few students who chose to remain anonymous wrote into the CLA Change team’s anonymous submission link, which if visited directs you to a Google form where you can share your story of sexual assault.
“It’s really powerful to hear these stories, and you know when people talk about how prevalent this issue is,” Carlson said. “I think it’s easy to sometimes forget so many people we interact with on a daily basis are going through this kind of thing or have experienced it.”
Both male and female students submitted their stories to be shared at Tuesday’s speak out, furthering the conversation by showing this issue is not one solely faced by women.
“I was actually really happy that we had stories from men too,” Wright said. “Women aren’t always the ones who are victims, men are victimized too. People who are homosexual, bisexual, transgender, straight it doesn’t matter, anybody can be victimized, so I was happy that we had that collection.”'
Following the speak out, the CLA Change team hopes that students will feel more comfortable sharing their stories, finding the help that they need from the resources provided to them on campus and knowing they are not alone.
“A lot of the stories talk about finding someone who can relate to their story and for the first time they don’t feel so alone,” Carlson said. “I hope that it helps bring awareness to people. Again, I think that it’s easy to forget how many people we encounter on a daily basis who have gone through something like this and if we forget it, nothing changes.”
The team is currently still accepting submissions to their link which they hope to create a bank of stories in order to keep the movement going. They want to be able to share these stories to bring awareness to the issue of sexual assault and open up the conversation. Individuals who choose to submit their stories, but do not want them shared, can request this when filling out the google form.
During the speak out, after a story had been shared, the crowd’s response was consistently, “We hear you.” Jacobson, who researches grief, saw a lot of parallels between victims of sexual assault and those suffering from grief.
“When people experience grief they just want to be heard, they just want to be asked about it and talk about it,” Jacobson said. “They don’t want it to be fixed, but they want to talk about it and have it be heard.”
The CLA Change team hopes to have more events like the speak out in the future but encourages students to reach out to the resources available to them on campus.
“It breaks my heart when students come and tell me, but I rather them come and tell me than keep it to themselves,” Jacobson said. “A statement similar to ‘we hear you’ is, ‘we’re here.’”
UMD Women’s Resource and Action Center: firstname.lastname@example.org
UMD Health Services: email@example.com
UMD Human Resources: firstname.lastname@example.org