No More Silence. No More Violence.
An Interview with NO MORE's UCLA Campus Outreach Coordinator, Savannah
When I entered Wellesley’s campus this fall as a first-year, my experience during Orientation Week was far removed from what I had envisioned. We were inundated with “ice breakers” and group activities in an effort to get to know one another in as short of a time span as possible. But, there was also a raw form of honesty I didn’t anticipate. By the end of Orientation Week, I was no longer sitting in a circle of awkwardness; I was sitting in an auditorium, hearing truths about my fellow peers that I didn’t ever think I’d know. We were asked to raise our hands in response to a variety of different questions about race, economic background, sexual orientation, and more. Then we were asked if any of us had ever experienced sexual assault, domestic violence, or had been stalked. It came as a shock to me to find that a great number of my fellow classmates had already experienced such brutality in their short life spans.
Despite the fact that the media is slowly, but surely, drawing attention to sexual assault and domestic violence, the statistics of domestic and sexual assault cases only increase year-by-year on college campuses and worldwide. Following the suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice—who, it should be noted, had his contract terminated only after evidence of his abuse in the form of a video was released online—Fox News joked about Janay Palmer’s experience as a victim of domestic abuse. In response, the #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft twitter campaigns attempted to—correctly—display the struggles that victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault have to live with every day. It’s easy to simply claim Janay or Rihanna or any other victim of domestic abuse should have left sooner but being a victim is a completely different experience from being a bystander.
I have grown up in a society dominated by technology, where the media reports both accurate and inaccurate facts about nearly every situation—particularly instances of domestic violence and sexual assault. As such, it is important for me to know that there are organizations out there that I and other individuals can turn to, not just for help but for information and involvement as well. Although there are many shelters and non-profit organizations around the world which cater to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, NO MORE is an over-arching organization which encompasses a variety of other organizations and seeks to promote awareness of and help for domestic violence and sexual assault.
I had the pleasure of interviewing by phone the campus outreach coordinator of NO MORE, Savannah, who currently studies at UCLA. For privacy reasons, we are not publishing Savannah’s last name.
Change-Magazine (CM): How is NO MORE different from other organizations regarding domestic violence and sexual assault?
Savannah (S): It was meant to be a unifying symbol. The idea behind NO MORE is that it isn’t as commercialized as the pink ribbon for breast cancer. It began as an effort to raise awareness and educate people on stigma and assault; on the nuances of the issue and the importance of being accepting and supporting of those who have experienced sexual assault or domestic violence. The statistics tell us that 1 in 6 men and 1 in 3 women are victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. Anyone of any gender, sexuality, race is affected; sometimes in many different ways. It is important to bring awareness to the issue, to humanize the statistic, and to have a platform for people to talk about it.
(CM): What has been your role in NO MORE? How has the project evolved?
(S): My role in NO MORE has fluctuated. I began with NO MORE a year ago. I’m a student at UCLA in my fourth year and I founded a program called 7000 in Solidarity. When I was creating the campaign, I looked to other campaigns and other symbols. NO MORE has a toolbox full of PSAs which I found was a clean-cut way to talk about the issue. I looked to NO MORE for inspiration and took materials from the toolbox to use in events such as Consent Week. I reached out to intern with NO MORE and that internship changed to handling campus outreach. A year later, I am now helping colleges to use the resources NO MORE has provided, as little or as much as they like. It could just be “The University of Alaska at Anchorage says NO MORE.” Other colleges use the toolbox or campaign materials. My role went from someone who used the symbol of NO MORE to someone who helped others to use it too.
7000 in Solidarity came about due to the statistic that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience sexual assault of domestic abuse in their lifetime. Of the 28000 students at UCLA, 7000 will be survivors of assault of abuse. I, myself, am a survivor of sexual assault. A fellow student assaulted me during my sophomore year and it took me awhile to find my voice, but I am now able to speak and advocate nationally.
NO MORE came out of the Joyful Heart Foundation and a coalition of non-profit organizations. It is literally made up of sexual assault or domestic violence coalitions for students. It has evolved from being just a symbol with initial PSAs to now having a NO MORE week in March and having many universities utilizing the campaign. UCLA, U of Alabama, Columbia, Penn State, and U of Alaska at Anchorage are just a few examples. NO MORE went from just a symbol to an entire grassroots organization to empower students.
NO MORE also has PSAs playing during NFL games, which has garnered lots of media response.
(CM): With so many instances of sexual assault and domestic violence occurring daily, many unreported, how does NO MORE define success?
(S): We define success by having conversation; starting the conversation about sexual assault. The reason sexual assault and domestic violence cases are underreported is because it’s a stigmatized issue. Victims feel unsupported. When your peers and family blame you for your abuse or won’t believe you, why would you go to a police officer or school administrator to report the attach? When your friends won’t be there for you would you turn to a police officer instead? We need to sit down and talk about why this is happening in our culture and within individual community levels. We need to start a dialogue, not just a monologue or a narrative of one individual one type of survivor, but to create a conversation around the issue. By creating a conversation around the topic, we will equip individuals instead of blame victims. We will let them know what their resources are—which is base level, but we’re not even there yet. When you’re stigmatized, you don’t want to talk to the police and in many communities, speaking to the police isn’t a part of their society. We want to create a climate of support around the nation, which is only at the base-level. It’s goal one. We have bigger goals but that’s our big purpose.
(CM): What are the next steps for NO MORE in the next 5 years? 10 years?
(S): The next five and ten years for NO MORE are to continue our efforts and to reach as many different communities. We want to reach out to men, not just as effective bystanders but also as survivors of sexual and domestic violence; to provide support for communities of color; to talk about childhood sexual abuse and what it is to be a child witness to these situations; to be diversified in our approach. No one community is affected so we need to reach out to all. It’s a huge task; not just athletics and sports, religious groups, or just communities of color. Not one narrow lens, we want to reach them all. We want to make NO MORE the symbol; a recognizable symbol. Not just to have a symbol but also to know that we’re talking about sexual violence. We want to be able to talk about sexual violence the way we talk about breast cancer or now even ALS. It should not be the victim’s fault but it’s going to take a long time. We’ve addressed it within the NFL, yes, but what about MBA? Hockey? Latino-Latino communities? What about different languages? We need to make sure we diversify our approach and help all communities.
(CM): What is your take, from the perspective of NO MORE, regarding the recently leaked images of nude female celebrities? Are these simple sex scandals or a serious sex crime that falls under the heading of sexual assault?
(S): Essentially, this is evidence of the culture we live in which somehow makes it okay to have photos, which were sent specifically to certain people, by adults who consented to have their pictures seen only by the people they were sent to, distributed nation-wide.
We blame the victim. It’s something NO MORE wants and needs to change. The first thing that was said in terms of the images of Jennifer Lawrence or Kim Kardashian leaking was “this comes with the territory” or “they shouldn’t have done it”. What that’s saying is that they don’t have control over their private behavior or bodies. From the perspective of NO MORE, it highlights the culture we live in and the need to address it. Those women did not consent to have those photos public. They had no control over this issue and it was not their fault. We want to change the current narrative.
(CM): With the recent rise in domestic violence and sexual assault on college campuses, how does NO MORE help?
(S): What we do is provide tools to student. We recently came out with a college tool kit specific for college students. It is different from our community tool kit as this is specifically for college campuses. It is for someone who is willing to advocate for policy change and work with school administration to positive change. Our toolkits also help students in the effort of raising awareness and highlight the rights and resources students possess. There are also national campaigns within the toolkit and other resources that can help students to analyze their individual schools’ policy. NO MORE created a webinar to educate students on how they can take as much or as little as they want away from the toolkit. It’s up to them to do an awareness effort or do a campaign. Additionally, the toolkit provides campus outreach advice and feedback. It has my e-mail address to contact for questions or if students are curious or want to shoot off an idea or philanthropy to raise money for NO MORE versus conducting an educational program on campus. Whatever their idea, I help them to develop it. Some students can utilize it a lot or others just a little. NO MORE is trying their best to provide an easy, in-depth, but still manageable way for students to create their own campaign. We want students to feel empowered and impassioned.
(CM): How can students get involved if they are interested?
On the website they can sign up to be an ally, and NO MORE sends them more information. Then they can choose between the community toolkit or the campus toolkit. The NO MORE webinar is also included so students can see what resources are covered as well as other materials. I recommend going to the website first to be involved and if they have certain questions they want answered–maybe if they don’t want to call their idea or event NO MORE but like the idea of NO MORE—they can bounce off ideas from the website contacts.
(CM): Is there anything else you’d like to add?
(S): Ultimately I think that in terms of college activism and the focus on colleges right now, though sexual assault and domestic assault are rampant, there are individuals who don’t go to college and are affected or who leave college and who are assaulted. It is important to have our lens on college but need to widen that lens too. I hope that we can address this as a societal problem and not just a campus issue. I am seeing a focus on college campuses, which is important, but there are resources available on our website to clinics and counseling centers and non-profit organizations as well. NO MORE is a coalition of those individuals. We don’t provide counseling or reinforcements. NO MORE is the symbol which all those banners fall under. You don’t have to be in CA for me to help you since NO MORE is there to help with multiple coalitions in each area. Utilize the website, especially since NO MORE wants to support individuals or help those who know victims. We ultimately want to change the climate from the one that our friends, family, and selves go through; one of silence and stigma. One day when the campaign is gone and has served its purpose, people will be able talk about sexual violence and domestic abuse and they won’t feel as if they’ve been victimized.
This interview represents the sole opinions of Savannah on behalf of the NO MORE and does not necessarily reflect the policy or position of Change-Magazine.