Former student and nationally-recognized sexual violence advocate, Wagatwe Wanjuki, speaks during It Happens Here, a gender violence awareness event, in Cohen Auditorium on April 2, 2014. (Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily Archives)

ASAP to host fourth annual It Happens Here event

Content Warning: This article discusses sexual violence.

Action for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) will host the fourth annual It Happens Here, an event that allows survivors of sexual assault to share their narratives. In previous years, the event has been hosted by Consent Culture Network. The event will be held on April 4 in Cohen Auditorium.

Bailey Siber, a member of the steering committee that plans the event, explained that It Happens Here aims to support and empower survivors.

“Even if a survivor doesn’t decide themselves that they want to be the one up on stage, to have their experience read aloud by another peer, another member of the Tufts community, can serve as a healing and a taking back of their own narrative,” Siber, a junior, said.

The purpose of the event is to provide a survivor-centric forum for sharing narratives. Siber explained that, while many events on campus discuss facts and figures relating to sexual assault, this event intentionally does not include statistics, and instead focuses on survivorhood.

Survivors can share their narratives through an anonymous online submission process. They can then decide to read it themselves at the event, choose a friend to read it for them or specify the type of person they want to read their narrative. The steering committee matches volunteers to narratives based on the wishes of those who shared, according to Siber.

“We try our best to align our volunteers with narratives that fit what the person who submitted wanted out of that person,” Siber said. “Basically, that can ensure confidentiality for the survivor and also ensure their narrative is represented as well as possible, if they chose not to share it themselves.”

Siber added that anyone who identifies as a survivor of sexual misconduct can share their narrative, without fear of being questioned, as there is no screening process.

In addition to planning the event, the It Happens Here steering committee sponsors informal gatherings for volunteers and survivors to spend time together and discuss their experiences. Siber explained that these gatherings occur before the event and are intended to make everyone feel comfortable and supported.

Following It Happens Here, the Tufts Center for Awareness, Resources and Education (CARE) will host another event for those involved to debrief and continue the conversation, according to Sexual Misconduct Prevention Specialist Alexandra Donovan.

Donovan explained that she will not attend It Happens Here, but will be in a separate room as a resource for those who want somebody to talk to during or after the evening. Humanist-in-Residence Walker Bristol and Sexual Misconduct Resource Specialist Nandi Bynoe will also be available as resources for students throughout the evening.

Donovan and Bynoe have helped with some of the logistics for the event, such as requesting that Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) officers wear plain clothes instead of their uniforms so that they appear less intimidating. However, both emphasized that the event is primarily student run.

“We still want this to be a very much student-led, for-students type of program, so we’re not taking over anything to do with the control of it or the choices of stories or anything like that,” Donovan said. “That’s all the organizers’ doing. We are purely support.”

Bynoe spoke about the important of having this type of survivor-centric event as a way to make survivors feel less alone.

“It often feels like a really lonely road, so having an event where you feel supported and believed in your experience is really valuable and can be really healing,” Bynoe said.

Siber said that the feedback received from the event is typically complex, as the topic of sexual misconduct often stirs up difficult emotions.

“A lot of people are deeply moved and deeply frustrated by what they hear, but also very appreciative and grateful for the fact that this kind of thing exists,” she said.

Siber added that while It Happens Here serves primarily as an opportunity for students to share narratives, all members of the Tufts community are welcome to attend. She also lamented the fact that there is a need for such an event at Tufts at all.

“As a steering committee member, I wish that It Happens Here didn’t need to happen,” she said. “It would be wonderful if there was no longer a need for it.”

CORRECTION AND CLARIFICATION:

A previous version of this article used the word “story” to describe the narratives shared by participants in It Happens Here. The article has been updated to characterize them more accurately as narratives. The Daily regrets this error.

In addition, this article has been updated to clarify that Action for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP) has not hosted the event every year. In the past, the event has been hosted by Consent Culture Network. Also, the event’s focus on survivorhood has been clarified.

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