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Voices Raised in Power

Students Raise Awareness of the Violence Against Women Through a Variety of Artistic Performances

By SARAH GARDINER
On November 14, 2006

A small group of students gathered in the Gallows Hill Lounge last Thursday to participate in Voices Raised in Power, the brainchild of Hillary Bennett '07. The event originated last year when Bennett, the Sexual Assault Task Force coordinator, realized that there were no events concerning women's issues occurring during the fall. Bennett felt this needed to change because the time known as the red zone, which takes place between orientation and Thanksgiving first semester, is the most vulnerable time for freshman girls. It is during this section of time that girls are most likely to suffer rape or attempted rape. Voices Raised in Power was designed to raise awareness of these issues through various artistic performances. "I've always been a believer that activism and change happen a lot through the art community," commented Bennett. "Art really brings people together and makes them listen in a way that statistics don't. I really wanted to put together something that would make people listen."

There were several differences between this year's production and last year's. "Last year [.] I was really afraid of upsetting the victims, of doing something that would do more damage than good," said Bennett. "This year, I decided it needed to be shorter, it needed to be more to the point; it needed to be more inflammatory. I'm angry that the assaults have increased this year. It's my senior year, and I have nothing to lose. I'm sort of realizing at the end of my four years that nothing has changed on campus, and I want things to change."

Although all of the pieces centered on women's issues such as rape, assault, and empowerment, the subject matter varied. Some of the performances dealt with extreme situations. A reading of the poem "I Got Flowers Today" by Jared Hoffman '07 discusses an abusive relationship that gets progressively worse. The abuser brings the victim flowers in lieu of apology until the speaker of the poem ultimately dies at his hands. Although powerful, this piece did not have as much of an impact on the audience as pieces that were more applicable to Trinity students.

"I'm Sorry," written by Bennett, describes a rape situation that begins as an assault at a party, much like the many parties that occur every weekend on campus. Noa Landes '08 described an assault she had suffered at the beginning of her freshman year. After the assault, which she reported to campus safety, an e-mail was sent out to the campus community cautioning Trinity girls not to go out alone at night. The e-mail did not admonish Trinity boys to not assault girls. "I thought this was something really important that not a lot of people get involved in," says Landes. "Coming into a group of people who think the same things are important and the same things should get out there. It helps a lot."

The most powerful piece of the evening was undoubtedly the dramatic reading of a stream of consciousness written and performed by David Calder '08. Calder's piece was written in response to the Nov. 2 protest in Mather which occurred in response to the writing of the word "nigger" on an African- American Trinity student's dry-erase board. Although Calder supported the protest, he chose not to participate. Calder's performance culminated in his shouting of the question, "Where's the fucking parade?!" in response to the daily examples of intolerance on Trinity campus. "After the events of Nov. 2 there was a huge response, and I was so happy about that; there needed to be a huge response," said Calder, "but I got to thinking about all the things that go on on this campus that don't get a response, all of the homophobic remarks, all the bigotry, not to mention the sexual assault [.] I just got to thinking, 'Why are we not screaming? Why are we not marching for these issues?' [.] I'm not trying to somehow cheapen the response to Nov. 2; that needed to happen. But it's about asking why it hasn't happened before. Why isn't it happening again?"

The evening was emotionally draining for both the performers and audience members (some participants were in tears by the end of the show). A reading of of Maya Angelou's "Phenomenal Woman" by Gwen Hopkins '08, Noa Landes '08, and Carrie Edwards '08, as well as a performance by the Shondaa Steppers helped to alleviate the mood. Acoustic performances of Nirvana's "Rape Me," Pearl Jam's "Betterman," and Sugarcult's "Pretty Girl," reflected the psychological side of abusive relationships as well as helped to transition between pieces. A performance by the all-male a cappella group The Accidentals helped to show male solidarity for the issue. Concern over the rise in assaults is not limited strictly to the female community.

Laura Lockwood, the Director of the Women's Center, felt that the event went well. She commented, "it's almost accepted that bad things are going to happen to good people on campus. We're trying to work to make that change [.] These issues are there, and unless we all address them they're just going to ferment and then explode." When asked what students can do on an individual level to make change Lockwood suggested, "you can challenge people when you hear them use derogatory language [.] You can educate yourself. You can get yourself involved in an organization that is working to make change on campus."

"It would have been great if more people were [there that night]," said Lockwood.

Events such as Voices Raised in Power are a crucial step toward raising awareness of issues faced by Trinity students. Trinity College has a reputation for being intolerant. Attendance of events such as Voices Raised in Power is a great way to change that reputation, unfortunately attendance was low.


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