Walking far from violence

Mar 062011
Authors: Andrew Carrera

Student government officials say old wounds will heal and new perspectives will be explored from Tuesday to Thursday as they host an interactive museum on interpersonal violence.

The three-day event –– titled “Walk Along With Me” and organized by the Associated Students of CSU Rams Against Interpersonal Violence department –– will feature exhibits of childhood sexual assault and domestic violence, outlining the real-life stories of Fort Collins survivors in pictures, posters and spoken-word.

The exhibit will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Cherokee Park Ballroom in the Lory Student Center Tuesday through Thursday. The event is free for students.

ASCSU has budgeted $5,000 in student fees for the event, according to Controller Tim Sellers. “Walk Along With Me” will cost each CSU student approximately $0.20, if the entire allocated fund is used, which Watt says will most likely not happen.

Attendees will be given MP3 players that walk them through what it is like to deal with the trauma afterwards. Other topics, such as stalking and emotional abuse, will also be part of the museum.

“I would say it’s a success when people come into the exhibit and they can connect with the stories and say, ‘I’m also a survivor,’ and then they can tell their own stories and start the healing process,” said Allison Watt, director of RAIV and chief organizer of the event. “It’s also a success when people that don’t understand the issue walk into the exhibit and say, ‘I’ve had my beliefs and I’ve had my ideas, but I kind of get it a little bit differently now.’“

RAIV was established in the fall of 2010 as part of President Cooper Anderson and Vice President Jennifer Babos’ campaign promise to increase awareness and resources for survivors of interpersonal violence –– a crime Babos has called a “silent epidemic” in previous interviews with the Collegian.

This is the second event RAIV has organized this year.

Wendy Bowling, ASCSU executive assistant to the vice president, said the interactive museum aimed to be greater than a mundane walk-through of a touchy subject –– “it was made to evoke an emotion.”

“We wanted to really impact people with how powerful this issue is. Just words on a poster is just words on a poster,” she said. “But having to walk through and listen to these stories while you see rooms that are based off of their experience is a really powerful thing that will probably stick with people a lot better and make them actually think about what the problem is and try to change it.”

American Furniture Warehouse donated furniture for the event, and Watt says she has also received support from campus groups Sexual Assault Victim Advocates, the Victim Advocacy Team and Crossroads.

“For the size of the event and the kind of the event, it is actually incredibly inexpensive for what’s happening because most (materials) have been donated,” Sellers said.

The most expensive part of the exhibit has been the costs associated with the drapery and piping needed to line the walls of the Cherokee Park Ballroom to give the event a museum feel.

Along with managing expenses, Watt said she has had to deal with the resignation of her co-director, Rachel Drechsler, who said she left for “moral and ethical reasons.”

“I’ve got a lot of support from a lot of different people in ASCSU and the Fort Collins community in general…” Watt said. “I think that that’s helped me out a lot. Losing my co-director is hard, she was a big part of this organization and it’s hard to lose someone that has helped you out.”

But, according to Watt, the real pressure of organizing an interactive museum on interpersonal violence comes from navigating through the sensitive subject.

“What’s stressful about it is continuing to be making sure that you’re respecting the stories of survivors,” she said. “And the other side is that when you go and you approach other people about the subject, you’re not saying things that really offend and turn people off.”

Senior Reporter Andrew Carrera can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 2:40 pm

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