“Show Up, Speak Out” event highlights sexual abuse awareness

Students share experiences at open mic

Morgana Carroll, Staff Reporter

The SURC ballroom was silent as the audience listened to a survivor’s story. They finished and walked off the stage as the crowd showed their support with a round of applause, acknowledging that it takes strength and bravery to share an experience like this with a crowd. 

Show Up, Speak Out was an event hosted by the Wellness Center in order to create a space to raise awareness about sexual assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which takes place in April. Prevention, Advocacy, Training, Healing (PATH) advocate Katie Parks said she wanted this event to be an opportunity for survivors to feel heard and to create a community that doesn’t allow sexual assault to happen. 

The event featured an open mic section where anyone from the audience could share their experiences. 

After the open mic portion, the attendees walked around the ballroom and visited various organization tables to take part in their craft or activity. 

Parks said 160 people were in attendance, which is higher than the at least 100-person goal she was hoping for. 

Open mic: Speeches, spoken word, performances

The event opened up with a section where any of the attendees could go up on stage. Performances included speeches, spoken word poetry, musical covers and original songs. Parks estimated that around 20 people participated in the open mic. 

The open mic segment was supposed to last for about half of the two hour long event, but ended up lasting longer and taking up more of the event’s time because so many people chose to share their story. Multiple speakers mentioned they had not planned on going up to speak but felt drawn to after hearing others speak. Some even shared their experiences for the first time at the event. 

“It was clear that so many people went up to share and said ‘I wasn’t gonna share but I’m feeling inspired,’” Carli Larson, a sophomore majoring in music, said. “Even if some people aren’t ready to share that story, they’re still feeling really heard and seen so they feel comfortable.”

During the open mic, Larson performed her own renditions of popular songs. 

“This event feels very important, and it’s something that I relate to personally,” Larson said. “So when Katie asked, I know that there’s ways to translate the feeling of healing to other people even if they don’t share, they get to know there are other people who have experienced that, so I said ‘yes Katie, I want to do it, I want to perform for this.’”

Raiden Jewett, a senior majoring in anthropology who attended the event, said the performances were impactful.

“They were difficult to listen to, but important to feel,” Jewett said. “They were emotional and needed.” 

Another attendee, freshman Zoe Hammer, said, “It’s healing to hear other experiences to know that I’m not alone.” 

Hammer said they think it’s important that allies hear experiences and stories because it helps to raise awareness about the severity and frequency of sexual assault. 

Campus and community organizations show support

Eleven of CWU’s clubs and organizations were in attendance, each with an activity for attendees to complete, as well as information about their organization. Organizations in attendance included Aspen, Kittitas Valley Healthcare Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, the CWU Police Department and ASCWU Senate, among others.

Leia McWilliams, a senior political science major and treasurer for “Active Minds,” a club centered around psychology, said the reason she felt it was important for her organization to attend was to show support for the event. McWilliams said she feels it is important to break this stigma and have these kinds of conversations. 

The activity at the “Active Minds” table was a journaling activity. The attendees who came to the table could write down their thoughts on a page and then “rip the page out and tear the shit out of it.”

“Having these booths here as well, it’s like, ‘Oh this is where I can get help for this; this is where I can meet people and get help for things that maybe I’m not looking for help right now,’” Larson said. 

Going forward

This is the first time Show Up, Speak Out has been held. While a similar event has been held before called Rock Against Rape, Parks said that Show Up, Speak Out involved more conversation. 

Rock Against Rape is no longer being held due to the coronavirus pandemic, so when CWU returned to in-person and students began to return to campus, Parks decided it was time to revamp the event.

Attendees and event coordinators said they think there is a need for more events like this. Parks said she wants to see more events like this because it gives survivors a chance to see the support they have and it provides others with the opportunities to hear these stories.

“More opportunities to talk about these things in a safe and open space would be amazing,” McWilliams said. 

Some of the attendees said they think CWU can do better in raising awareness about sexual assault. One of the speakers during the open mic segment talked about The Observer’s “Dining Services supervisor investigated for inappropriate boundaries” story, and how they felt like nothing came out of it. 

“CWU needs to do better by, like when that person talked about the Dining Services incident, cracking down on those things,” Larson said. “They need to send an email, saying ‘Hey we’re working on this, this is being changed,’ so people feel like things are changing and it’s safer to be here. It needs to be more open and talked about instead of swept aside.”