Show up Speak Out student performers highlight strength of sexual assault survivors

Theater department performs anonymous stories submitted by students

Katherine Camarata, Lead Editor

Silence overtook a dozen audience members as theater department students shared the chilling tales of CWU sexual assault survivors on stage in the SURC Ballroom on April 27 with painful emotion in their voices to celebrate the annual Show Up Speak Out event.

“I hope that people who attend get the sense that they are not alone, that their experiences matter, that CWU is a community that supports them, that sees them, that feels with them,” Health Promotion Coordinator for Violence Prevention and Response at the Wellness Center Katie Parks said. “[I hope] that folks who may not be as familiar with these issues, that they walk away with a better understanding of what our survivors have experienced, but also how they everyday show up in their lives and continue with a healing process that oftentimes nobody else sees.”

Last year’s event featured an open mic for survivors to share stories, but Parks said they changed this format to honor the “capacity of the audience members” because they received feedback that last year’s event was triggering for some people.

“This year, we decided to receive submissions from CWU survivors sharing their stories anonymously, and then we’re having some student performers read those stories during the events, as well as some other curated content, all around the themes of healing and resilience and growth,” Parks said.

Show Up Speak Out was the second part to the Dare to Care awareness-raising event held earlier in April by the Wellness Center, among other campus and community organizations like Aspen Victim Advocacy Services. 

I think Dare to Care was a great success, because it brought together student groups as well as campus groups and community partners, all of which came together to show their solidarity and support for survivors of interpersonal violence or sexual assault,” Secretary Senior of the Wellness Center Arryn Welty said. 

Welty said she felt Show Up Speak Out was a great event to wrap up sexual assault awareness month in April, because it highlights “the more vulnerable side of survivor stories and the bravery it takes to share these stories.” 

Welty read two pieces on stage, one through the eyes of a male who experienced relationship abuse from Sonya Renee Taylor’s website and the other, a passionate reading of the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. 

Victim Advocate for Aspen, Kelly Boozer, was present to offer support at the event and said her job entails helping assault victims get back on their feet after facing trauma, which may include attending court hearings, helping them find a job or file a protection order against their abuser. Boozer emphasized the importance of events like Show Up Speak Out as preventative measures.

“A lot of what we do in this society is more tertiary and not primary, and so prevention needs to be primary,” Boozer said. “These [events] are super important to get the word out and to get education out about how prevalent this is in our community, and especially on campus, because it’s a rough go out there.”

While assault situations can be rough, Boozer said the situations students face are “not like Law and Order.”

“It is real, raw people and real, raw issues that are happening,” Boozer said. “So I just hope people come away with more knowledge and more awareness with those that they interact with as well.”

Boozer said this topic may make some people uncomfortable because it can strike a nerve, and people would rather these issues be “out of sight, out of mind,” however she said this is not a long-term solution. 

“You have to bring this to the forefront in order for us to heal that nerve, because otherwise it’s just going to keep happening,” Boozer said. “People always want to say, ‘I want to be like the person I was before this happened.’ But that person wasn’t able to survive. That’s why you’re the new person, you’re going forward with this trauma, and you’re part of a group that nobody wants to be a part of, but it’s such a tender, loving group because we all have that shared trauma.”

Students in solidarity

The event featured an intermission in between performances where students colored together on a large piece of paper and created black out poetry.

Malik Cant​​ú, a second year theater performance major, expressed the importance of art when processing emotions.

“There’s just so much connection that there can be to art and I feel like finding that healing and finding those ways to see yourself in someone else’s story, but not feel like you are being broadcast into a capacity that you can’t handle, is something really important,” Cant​​ú said. “It’s just a really nice way to have that self reflection.”

Genevieve Anderson, a senior in the theater department, expressed gratitude for events where students can have authentic conversations on campus. 

“These things happen, and for me as a survivor, the societal narrative is you shouldn’t talk about what happened because we want to pretend like it didn’t,” Anderson said. “We don’t live in an ideal world where you just go to school and you succeed and that’s it. So I really appreciate that  the Wellness Center in Central Washington has fought to provide us a space for stories to get told, because they deserve to get told.”

Sarah Smith, an apparel, textiles and merchandising major, said she designed a clothing line this year centered around her past trauma.

“As someone who doesn’t have access to the right counseling, [this event] is great to have because people don’t know where to go and sometimes just taking the first step is a nice way to get some comfort from what’s going on,” Smith said. “Working on my line for the show which is about my experience of what happened to me, it’s nice to be able to walk away from that, because it’s a lot of putting yourself back into what happened.”

Parks emphasized the significance of students leaning on their community for support.

“These experiences are challenging, they are traumatizing,” Parks said. “They should not happen, and for those who are struggling, that is normal. They are not alone in that struggle. I would just encourage them to reach out to their support system, and also to the professional resources that are available, both on campus in our community and nationally.”



Aspen 24/7 crisis line: 509-925-9384 

Wellness Center in SURC 256: (509) 963- 3213

Student Medical and Counseling Services: (509) 963-1881

Suicide prevention text crisis line: 741-741

WildcatCare365 service: Available through TimelyCare app