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It happens here promotes transparency for acts of violence at Carnegie Mellon

Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence (SARV) is a pressing issue in today’s society, and affects a significant portion of Carnegie Mellon students. In the Spring of 2015, the university, in an effort to understand and assess the campus culture in regards to SARV, released a SARV study detailing instances of SARV among undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students on campus. Of the individuals who responded to the survey, it was reported that 26 percent of undergraduate women, nine percent of undergraduate men, eight percent of graduate women, and three percent of graduate men have experienced sexual assault since they enrolled at Carnegie Mellon.

According to the Office of Title IX Initiatives, the results of the SARV Study have emphasized the need to increase awareness and healthy relationships while educating people about relationship violence, teach community members how to identify signs of SARV, how to empower them to intervene when they recognize SARV in a relationship, and to inform community members on how to report SARV. Several organizations work to promote awareness about SARV to the public and educate and empower individuals who have been affected by SARV. One such organization is SAFE (SARV Activism for Everyone!), which was created by Carnegie Mellon students.

SAFE is a student group which aims to prevent sexual assault and relationship violence on Carnegie Mellon’s campus by spreading awareness through activism. Initially known as Got Consent?, the organization changed its name to SAFE.

“We changed our name because we wanted to expand to cover all types of violence instead of just sexual violence,” said Naomi Shin, President of SAFE.

In their most recent event on Friday, Oct. 27, It Happens Here, the organization displayed artwork in the forms of paintings, drawings, poetry, and photography, among others, to spread awareness about the impact of sexual assault and relationship violence and reveal stories of strength from sexual assault survivors.

“Our main message is simply a reminder that sexual assault and relationship violence aren’t foreign things — they happen to your classmates, your friends, and can even happen to you,” said Shin.
Among the artwork displayed was a contemporary piece depicting an ironing board with a printed sheet of an arm. Behind the ironing board was a clothesline dangling with printed sheets depicting arms, legs, and a naked body. In addition to this powerful work of art was a poem titled, “Phoenix,” expressing the innermost feelings of an individual surviving sexual assault and how they were able to rise from the ashes even after their difficult experiences. Red wooden statues outlining the bodies of women held stories of horrific cases of sexual assault. A table was displayed in the corner with paintings and stories by children raised in abusive homes. A video playing in the background voiced advice to survivors from other survivors of sexual assault. They were laden with words of strength and determination to empower individuals to stand up for themselves and their safety.

“Through this event, we wanted to serve and help survivors in our community by giving them an outlet while also impacting other members of Carnegie Mellon by inspiring people to take a couple of minutes from their days to think about tough topics like SARV and hopefully be more mindful of what they see with their peers,” said Shin.

It Happens Here was first proposed last year by the organization’s advisor, Jess Klein. The organization decided to continue the event because of its effectiveness in raising awareness of domestic violence in a unique and creative manner. SAFE has also hosted other events to raise awareness of SARV.

“Last semester, we held Take Back the Night, a national initiative that is held slightly differently depending on the host. SAFE held it in the form of a mini protest/march leading to a safe space discussion in the [Cohon Center] where survivors could talk about their experiences,” said Shin.

Through their varied efforts, SAFE is working towards spreading awareness about sexual assault and relationship violence to Carnegie Mellon students. They emphasize the gravity of the issue, and present ways to prevent and recognize SARV, as well as how to report it.

The organization encourages members of the Carnegie Mellon community who have been impacted by sexual violence, relationship violence, stalking, or sexual harassment to report their concerns to the Office of Title IX Initiatives by calling (412) 268-7125 or emailing tix@cmu.edu.