Agents of Change aims to eliminate myths, stereotypes of sexual assault

by Alex Kirkpatrick, Digital Editor

Members of the May Term course Agents of Change sought to produce a performance focusing on ending sexual harassment and assault.

The result was a standing ovation for the actors’ abilities in conveying the elusive topic with a dose of reality and poise, while utilizing the phrase “It’s On Us” to symbolize the support of the community.

The group faced mounting pressures, replacing “He Said – She Said,” a program performed by professionals, intended to bring about personal reflection while dissecting a real life case study.

Department Chair of Theatre Jennifer Nostrala said one of the biggest disappointments in “He Said – She Said” was the centralization of a male assaulting a female.

The dichotomy of the scenario largely ignored the LGBT community, and Nostrala hoped to cover multiple forms of sexual assault.

She crafted a course that was designed to be more effective.

Rather than the performance being acted out by professionals, current students produced and presented their own performance for incoming students.

The goal was to relate and probe deeper emotions, given the student body is invariably connected.

Senior Bill Hitt also said fear of backlash from the Greek community was looming, especially in the aftermath of recent Greek life scandals.

“We didn’t know how certain Greeks would respond to the performance, but we definitely wanted to be sensitive to Greek life. We weren’t sure if we had done that well. We actually got support from almost every group,” Hitt said.

He said opening up the dialogue for freshmen is beneficial because it eliminates confusion early on.

“We don’t think how little sexual assault can be, and girls can say something if a guy catcalls at them. It’s OK for them to think that’s wrong and not brush it off,” Hitt said.

“I’ve had someone come up to me and share their story. The fact that they can trust me is really nice,” he said.

Performers researched and developed ideas while meeting with Student Development, Counseling, S.A.R.A. and PRIDE to develop a better understanding of how and why sexual assaults occur.

The course also included a campus-wide viewing of the movie, “The Hunting Ground” — a film that exposes sexual assaults and rapes on college campuses in the U.S.

“Everyone who was there can agree that it was one of the hardest things to see,” Hitt said.

Sophomore Brianna Stoever said she wanted to become part of the solution to sexual assault on college campuses.

“We felt that we needed to give the facts to students and show that it’s not about who said what, but that people are supported and informed,” Stoever said. “The program last year was so frustrating that I wanted to help change things.”

She said she wanted to create a community of people who can always feel safe.

While “It’s On Us” was mainly intended for freshmen, there has been large demand for another showing for all students.

“I was very impressed with the performance,” junior Morgan Moline said. “It makes me happy to see what a difference Simpson College is making when it comes to sexual assault awareness.”

The performance will be annual, according to Hitt, with a few modifications each year to revamp its relevance in accordance with pop culture.

Check back for updates at thesimpsonian.com.

To take the pledge, visit ItsOnUs.org.